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Unsoliticited Writing Tip

Yesterday, the only answer to my question of "what sort of things do you want me to post over the summer?" was "more spontaneous posts" so, here's your first....

CONFLICT RESOLUTION:
When writing a story, the satisfaction comes from your conflicts being resolved. Now, you'd think this would be a no-brainer, but here's the trick: ALL conflicts have to be resolved, even the man vs. himself conflicts.


So, let's say you're writing an extremely epic adventure romance fic - nearly 200k - and my goodness, you've hooked your audience - your lead characters are sympathetic, your plot is well developed, your romance is romantic.... SO, you've got your antagonist, who is laying in wait to ruin everything, and he's your man vs. man conflict... you've got the environmental hurdles the leads must overcome (ie: they get trapped somewhere and have to escape, or the society they live in stands in the way of their dreams, etc...), and THEN you have the psychology of the hero... this is your man vs. himself conflict... maybe they don't think they're brave enough to get what they want, maybe they don't think he deserves it... maybe, in the case of the fic I just read, they has a really fucked up view of sex.

So, at the end of story, you not only have to overcome the envionment and defeat the antagonist, you also have to address the lead's super f*cked up psychology and make sure that it's evident that they have worked past it - not only that, but you have to make sure there's EVIDENCE that they have moved past it or, at the very least, are well on their way to moving past it.

You can't, for instance, have a main character who has a super fucked up view of sex, and then end the story at the love confession and fade out before anything is ever consummated. Do you want to know why? It's not because you've denied us the smut of the consummation scene. It's because those of use who have been paying attention to your 200k words that constantly reiterate how fucked up this guy is, are going to sit there thinking "okay, but... it's all going to go to shit the first time they're intimate at all" and suddenly that lovely victory you've built up, means pretty much nothing, because you've got this dangling unresolved conflict.

It's like if I wrote a story where our hero is someone who is a giant miserable depressed alcoholic and are likely to die with the next binge drinking event, unless they get help - meanwhile, a serial killer stalks the town, but our hero can't stop them, because there is also a meteor barrelling towards earth, and the murderer is the only one who knows the codes to launch the missles that can destory it.

Now, imagine that's my ridiculous premise - if I have the hero get over their alcoholism, so they can stop the murderer, that's great. But if I ended the story there, you'd be sitting there wondering when that meteor is going to hit... or if I had our hero stop the meteor, recover from alcoholism, but not stop the serial killer - you'd be sitting there equally worried about how many more people are going to be murdered, and why the story ended without defeating the bad guy. Or, if the hero stops the meteor, arrests the murderer, and then I fade out while they're staring at a bottle of whiskey and thinking "time for a drink", you're left not with a happy ending, but with a bittersweet ending where you're like "well... everyone is saved except the hero."

Likewise, if I have a adventure romance, where my main character has a giant personality problem that prevents them from having stable relationships. I can't end the story before I address that problem. I can get rid of as many rivals for their love as I want. I can get rid of all the physical and environmental obstacles that keep our two lovers seperated, but if I don't address the fact that my main character is SUPER fucked up, then nothing is resolved. You don't get a "they lived happily ever after" if there's a 90% chance that as soon as the fic fades to black, the main character is going to have a nervous breakdown.

And addressing the fact that my main character is super fucked up isn't the same as explaining WHY they're fucked up, or having them REALIZE how fucked up they are - I know plenty of people, myself included, who are fucked up, but don't know how to STOP being fucked up. Awareness is not the same as solving the problem. "Oh, there's a giant meteor about to kill all mankind - well, now that we're aware of it, I guess that problem is solved. And we lived happily ever after...." Nope. You all died. This is not a happy ending. This is very much an ending where the reader is sitting there thinking "I read nearly 200k of fic, and you're not even going to RESOLVE THE FUCKING PROBLEM?!"

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
borgmama1of5
Jul. 2nd, 2016 10:06 pm (UTC)
You have a unique way with words--even a non-SPN essay makes me grin at how you explain things :)
hells_half_acre
Jul. 2nd, 2016 10:19 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed ;)

Mostly, I just needed to yell about an enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfactory 2.5 days of reading.
liliaeth
Jul. 3rd, 2016 02:59 am (UTC)
Reminds me of an abo story I wrote recently, which I had end by Castiel letting Dean go, so he could choose to come back. I felt I couldnt have Dean and him have sex, until Castiel gave him a genuine choice about whether he wanted to be in a relationship with him. Because no matter how much Dean had started to like Cas back, as long as he was there against his will, it would just feel like stockholm syndrome if Dean just gave in and became Castiel's happy Omega.

But by letting Dean go home, Castiel recognized that Dean had a right to choose, overcoming his attitude that he knew better what was good for Dean than Dean did, and it gave Dean a choice to consider if he wanted what Cas offered him or not. Wether or not to accept the relationship on his own terms.

As such the fic never had a genuine sex scene between the two, but it still had a somewhat happy ending in Dean eventually calling Cas and reaching out to him, eventually...
hells_half_acre
Jul. 3rd, 2016 03:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, but in that case, the sex scene wasn't the proof that you'd solved the internal-conflict of the characters - Your ending should feel satisfying even without sex.

However, in the case of the fic I just read - it's as though you wrote that same fic, but you also had a problem where because Dean may have been coerced in the past, or a slave to his biology, or whatever, he disassociates during sex - like, BIG TIME, to the point where he is practically a different person, and it's obviously taking a huge mental toll on him and making him miserable, even if he loves the person he is having sex with. In that case, you wouldn't be able to end the fic on the phone call, because there's still the looming issue of whether or not Dean can have a healthy sexual relationship with Cas, or whether he's just doomed himself to repeated mental breakdowns for the rest of his life.

Basically, if your internal conflict is HINGED on a sexual issue, then actually showing that your main characters are capable of having a healthy sexual encounter is REALLY IMPORTANT.

Anyway, yeah... you weren't actually disagreeing with me, I know. You were just saying how you just wrote a fic where you could resolve all conflicts without sex, because you didn't have any sex-related conflicts.
supernutjapan
Jul. 3rd, 2016 07:27 am (UTC)
I feel your frustration bb! Please tell me this was non-professional fic and not a published novel. I can only imagine that it was some sort of time or length constraint that didn't allow the writer to finish their fic properly. I've read a few where the last few paragraphs seemed really rushed and unfinished and one author did admit that, I think the length constraints, didn't allow them to finish it properly. I'd never want to enter something like that, personally.
hells_half_acre
Jul. 3rd, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
This was a fic, but they obviously weren't bound by length constraints, seeing as how they had spent 190k writing, with some truly ridiculous side-tracks in the middle. Not only that, but they wrote more in the same series, but didn't bother to write more in the future, just more in the past where they further explore the sexual trauma that led the main character to be fucked up (trauma that, I should mention, was PLENTY EXPLORED in the main fic - there was no need to go even further into detail, except if the author found some personal pleasure in doing so...which is fine, we all have our kinks, but meanwhile people like me who get more enjoyment from the comfort than the hurt are left hanging.)

Personally, I think they left off where they did because they might have written themselves into a corner, and not actually known HOW to solve the problem or show that the main character was healthier. It certainly would have been more of a gradual process, but they could have at least shown that they'd taken the first steps.

Anyway... I just get really annoyed when really long fics end up being unsatisfying, because I've invested so much more time into reading them. So, I'm being pretty harsh here. It WAS a good fic, despite the ending.
supernutjapan
Jul. 3rd, 2016 11:21 pm (UTC)
I do remember you saying you don't read long fic so, I can see how much of an investment that was. Well, I guess it's good you at least enjoyed the journey? The good part of it not being resolved is you can always make up your own ending :D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )