|Photo Credit: Cindy Shultz|
That happens, I get new story glee at the beginning when I'm still plotting and itching to write. But I really REALLY have it now because I got the green light to dive into a story I wasn't at all sure would fly! I'll give you a hint: IT'S A CIRCUS. Oh wait, that wasn't a hint. BUT IT'S STILL A CIRCUS. A Circus Medical Romance *beams*. Circus Medicus is what I'm calling it, because I know that it will get a new title anyway.
So I'm in full-on Excitement Supernova! That glorious place at the beginning where I'm certain I'm a GENIUS, everyone will love my kooky story, and I should have it finished by Tuesday because it's going to be so easy to write. Excitement Supernova, Delusional Supernova... whatever! Call it what you like, I'm going to try and stuff some in a Tupperware and stick it in the freezer to whip out when things get hard again.
Supernovae aside, I decided to post this morning because last night I had an epiphany. Or maybe I finally just understood something my last editor was actually doing with questions she'd ask in revisions--those questions that made me dig deeper into the internal conflict.
Internal conflict is basically a coping mechanism, a belief a character has designed to protect them from X happening. X happened in the past, or something like X happened in the past, and the internal conflict is protection from X repeating.
Example: Patty was left at the altar. That jerkfaced-MIA-bridegroom broke her heart and now she's afraid of serious relationships--they all lead to marriage and you just can’t ever count on someone to be there blahblahblah.
Seems kind of shallow, right? People do get left at the altar without developing a complex. Children survive one parent walking out on them, and become completely stable adults without daddy issues.
So here is my epiphany: One incident in an otherwise normal existence doesn’t make someone develop really strong coping/protecting mechanisms.
Not unless it’s a horrible incident, like a plane crash making someone never want to fly again. Or a woman deciding to never have more children because her last baby spontaneous combusted during a diaper change… Big Horrible Incidents aside, one Average-Baggage incident does not believable, sustainable Internal Conflict make.
But if that one incident confirms a belief suggested by an earlier incident? What if Patty has always had self-esteem issues, never could believe that her fiancée wanted to marry her, and THEN was left at the altar? Yeah, I can see that confirming what she already felt: that she wasn’t good enough to be loved by the kind of man she wanted, or something along those lines. Make her set her sights low, make her date the wrong kind of man.
Every craft book I’ve read about developing conflict always demanded I ask Why… but I guess up until now, when in the initial writing stages(first draft) I’ve never asked the one final Why that makes the difference. The Why that gets me to that deepest level(until revisions… when my editor asked me why…)
So, this is what I going to do from now on: When I get to this Incident that gave my character a complex(if it’s not horrible like BabySpontaneousCombustion)I'm going to ask this:
Why did this incident affect him/her enough to make him to live a guarded life? What earlier belief did this incident confirm?
Anyway, that's my epiphany for the day. I'm sure it's not an epiphany to everyone, but if it is, feel free to steal my Why!
(And I'm still excited about the story after typing this long post. Circus Medicus YAY!)