Aug 23, 2013

Next Project and Internal Conflict Epiphany

Photo Credit: Cindy Shultz
Book2 is all done, aside from Author Amendments when they get here, I'm considering Uncovering Her Secrets on the shelf. I have a new project, and I'm so excited I'm kind of annoying myself!

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 fiancĂ©e 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?

Until now, I think my initial Internal Conflict Incident has not been the root. It’s been the base of the tree, but there was always something in the roots that I didn’t pick up on until someone MADE ME think about it.

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!)


  1. I love the idea of a circus book! One of the strengths of Medicals is you can do so many different types of settings.

    Also love your insight into internal conflict! This is one I really struggle with and have to keep working on. Fiona Lowe has some cool tips/worksheets on her website that I have to re-read all the time to remind myself. (Because I can't learn something the first time!)

    She says something like (and I'm paraphrasing here) "What cemented their original idea into a strong personal belief that seems insurmountable to overcome?"

    Like, Character X grew up in a stormy home with lots of fighting, but they didn't lose their faith in love completely until they had their own stormy, stressful marriage.

    I know I'm saying what you said, slightly differently, but I'm just glad someone else struggles with that stuff and I thought you might find it interesting since you're both Med authors ;-)

    1. Hi Jill! Thanks for stopping by and for the info to Fiona's website. I didn't know actually, and now I really wish I had! Might have made book2 easier to write! At least that's what I like to tell myself: the more writing advice I absorb, the more times I complete a book, the easier it will get. Because as much as I love it, writing a book is always hard!

      And yay for the circus love! The diversity allowed is a big part of what I love about Medicals too. That and the room for grittiness, exploring darker issues that probably wouldn't fly in other series.

      Good luck with your internal conflict :D Well, with your struggle to master it!

  2. OMG! Your epiphany became my epiphany! You're right that there should be a layer to cement those silly beliefs the characters have. That makes sense.

    I have thought that characters shouldn't cry uncontrollably for someone that died 20 years earlier. I think, geez get over it. But if they had abandonment issues then it could be internal conflict.

    Again, thanks for wording this much better than any of the 2 dozen craft books I own.


    1. Yay Faith! I'm glad I wasn't the only one :) And glad it could help you. I have about 2 dozen craft books too(actually, I've loaned about half to my brother, but I may have to go rough him up and take them back! I need them when I start a new book!), and I still never got to the heart of what they no doubt all said.

      It's funny how you can read the same thing so many times and never really get it until you stumble across the right wording. It also probably absorbs in layers, depending on where you are in your own learning curve. You can't really understand the fine tuning stuff when you're still in your first book ever, you know? Even if you read it, it doesn't mean anything to you until you've had the chance to apply it.

      Good luck with your IC too!

  3. Love your epiphany, thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! I'm never quite sure if my epiphanies make me look like a moron or not, so I'm glad when they help anyone. Otherwise, I could just be the person who shouts out... THE ANSWER IS 4!...twenty minutes after everyone else knew what 2+2 was. :)


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