Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Digging Deep to Uncover Your Story’s Conflicts by Jan Drexler

Jan Drexler

We’ve all been there. You’re two chapters into your next book, and the words are flowing. You love your hero and heroine and their first meeting sent sparks flying. Your secondary characters are a great supporting cast, and the story is off to a wonderful start.

Then, like a balloon losing air, your story starts sinking. You haven’t hit that proverbial writer’s block, but you can see it up ahead. You frown at the computer screen. You make another cup of tea.  You wander around the house, talking to the cat. You have no idea how to write the next chapter.

What happened?

When I reach this point it’s usually because my conflicts aren’t strong enough.

Oh, the external conflict is fine. That pending avalanche, or the cattle rustlers, or the banker’s threat to foreclose on the mortgage…there’s no problem there.

No, it’s the internal conflict. That part of your hero’s soul that is buried so deep that you haven’t taken the time or energy to ferret it out yet. And you don’t want to. It’s hard work to get to the root cause of why your hero is such a jerk – 

Wait! Did I just say my hero is a jerk? Hmm. I guess he is. That’s why sparks flew when he met my heroine. But it isn’t enough to say he has a long way to go before he meets the heroine’s expectations. You, as the author, need to dig deep. 

It’s time to start asking questions.

Why did meeting the heroine make the hero act like a jerk? Maybe she’s a strong woman who wouldn’t back down.

Why does a strong woman threaten him? Maybe he has this idea of the perfect woman, and she doesn’t come close.

Why isn’t his “perfect woman” strong? Maybe because his mother was gentle and caring…

Ah! We’re getting close. Maybe the hero’s mother died when he was a small boy, and his memories of her have been distorted and idealized. He doesn’t remember how strong she was when the wagon train got hit by a flash flood and his father was carried away and she was left alone, caring for our hero and his four siblings…. He only remembers being held close by his loving, gentle mother.

And his conflict with the strong heroine can only be resolved when he discovers two things: that his mother was a fighter, and that the heroine can be gentle, caring, AND strong.

Digging deep into our characters’ pasts help us understand the backstories that dictate their goals, their motivations, and their conflicts. Digging deep helps us create a strong inner conflict that keeps our characters fighting against all of our efforts to give them a happy ending…until they finally accept the change God is trying to work in their lives and they’re able to resolve the turmoil in their souls. 

Are you ready to get to work?

About the Author

Mattie's Pledge
by Jan Drexler
Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their four adult children and new son-in-law.

Find her here:
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café: http://yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com

Mattie's Pledge
Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community—friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart. But when a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?


  1. A great reminder for me to ask those questions as I prepare new stories. Thanks, Jan!

    1. You're welcome, Sandra! When I ask these questions as I'm plotting a book, I feel like I'm entering the world of "let's pretend..."

  2. Wonderful hints and reminders, Jan. Conflict is sure what makes the book! I do a Career Say presentation each spring at the local middle school on romance writing, and it's fun to deal with conflict with the students.

    Wow, what a terrific heritage you have! We spent a day in Lancaster PA and it simply not long enough. Best wishes for continued success with your books.

    1. Thanks, Tanya!

      Yes, without conflict the story just falls flat, doesn't it?

      And what a great opportunity for you to influence budding authors!


  3. Great reminder, Jan! I try to dig in and figure out my characters before I start writing, but I still find that they reveal even more to me as the story progresses - and that's fun to discover new things about them.

    1. That same thing happens to me, Dawn. I usually have to go back and revise the first third of the book because by then I really know my characters!

      They can be pretty stubborn. ;)

  4. Great suggestions for making plots stronger. Nice to have these hints handy.


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