The Page a Day Writers Group

Week Four: Where’s Carlos? Neglected Characters. Also: Conflict Coaching for the Conflictually Blocked

Posted on: June 25, 2011

The weeks are flying by; I’ve completed week four of my twelve-week online book-writing class with Kathie Giorgio. I can honestly say, thanks to this class, my story is leaping along like a gazelle. I also find I’m thinking back to the class I took with Drusilla Campbell, and appreciating how much I learned with her, as well. I feel so fortunate to have been nudged along by two such fantastic mentors!

When I took Campbell’s class, my “rough draft” was more like a mass of morphing cells than a living, breathing story. It was so nebulous and and fragile at that stage. I was still forming the story arc, and also had a very difficult time building conflict into the plot—a basic cornerstone of any viable story.

I’ve since nurtured my writing self with conflict coaching:

“Got conflict?” (coffee mug)

“Three cheers to conflict!” (office flag)

“Treat yourself to a heaping helping of conflict today!” (kitchen banner)

“Your characters are allowed to be in conflict.” (screensaver)

“Characters need to be in conflict with each other and themselves. Otherwise, no story!” (computer screen Post-It)

I remember Campbell’s edict that in each scene, one of the characters is not allowed to get the thing they want. Or, if they do get it, there must be a price. Until the resolution. Then, they might finally be allowed to have what they want. But they must have changed in the process. Or their environment must have changed.

Before taking this class with Giorgio, I wrestled with my mass of nebulous cells— my messy, primordial ooze of slopped-together scenes—until I had more of a real rough draft. So, now I have more to work with, but still lots to work on.

Which brings me to week four’s feedback ): don’t leave essential characters invisible to the reader for too long, or a) it’s very confusing; b) the story won’t flow as well; c) the story won’t be as believable.

My main character, Agave, has gone through a horrendous transformation. While she grapples with life after the precipitating, transformative event, I somehow left her love interest hanging on the invisible periphery. How could I have done this to dear Carlos? I was so wrapped up in poor Agave’s physical struggles, I neglected to include Carlos as part of her emotional struggle. I dropped the emotional thread, and the result was a disconnect that felt unbelievable. My critique circle united in a chorus of “Where’s Carlos?”

Of course, Carlos comes back into Agave’s world, but apparently not soon enough, emotionally. I’m grateful for this essential input and will reweave these scenes in my revision.

Pat on back: I reveled in the comments that I had captured satisfying detail in Agave’s transformation!

Thanks for sharing the journey. What have your revision struggles, joys, and aha! moments been?

Write on,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

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6 Responses to "Week Four: Where’s Carlos? Neglected Characters. Also: Conflict Coaching for the Conflictually Blocked"

Ondine, all that stuff about conflict? You say it much more concisely and clearly than I ever did. Well done!

I’m aglow with your compliment, Drusilla 😀 Happy Sunday to you!

I love your “conflict coaching.” I think I need to surround myself with some of that, too! Can’t wait to hear more about Agave’s emotional journey.

Might have to spread some “conflict coaching” around here. Reminders are always good to have.

It’s delightful following your journey, and seeing your own writer’s arc happening 😉

Thank you for your comments! I look forward to checking in on your blogs 😀 Yes, moving forward…

Thanks for this post, Ondine. I found everything you wrote (and especially your journey) inspirational and helpful. Keep that gazelle leaping. I’m eager to read your finished project.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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