Action Scenes: Using Action in a Story

Action in a story always serves a purpose when done well. To make sure action scenes are effective, consider what they ask of the reader and how they advance the plot.

The Nature of Action Scenes

When it comes to the nature of action scenes, it is important to recognize that a big difference between movie action scenes and written action scenes is what they ask of the reader.

Action scenes in movies require no audience participation, but in written form they require a lot of reader participation, particularly with fight scenes. It takes effort to understand what is happening in a fast-paced action scene. Action, in general, is often chaotic. To readers, action scenes can easily become confusing for the reader to follow what’s going on if it is not written clearly and interwoven with other components. Action works best when balanced with description, exposition, internal dialogue, and emotional reflection.

Why something is happening is just as important, or more important in some cases, than what is happening in the scene. Makes sure the why is clear during an action scene in order to prevent the reader from getting bored or lost in an endless description of movements.

Asses an action scene to make sure what you are asking of the reader provides an equal payoff, by having a purpose that is understandable and clear.

Using Action to Advance the Plot

Action must matter to the story itself, or it won’t matter to the reader. When considering what is the point of an action scene, ask what you are hoping to accomplish with the action scene.

Purposes behind action scenes might include revealing information, providing character development, affecting the rest of the story in some way, making the reader ask important questions, showing or revealing a character’s skill or talent, providing a transition, etc. Once you pin down the purpose of the scene in relation to the overall story, make sure that is also apparent to the reader.

If you cannot define the purpose, or the scene seems to be accomplishing nothing, cut it or rework it to fulfill a clear purpose. Then evaluate the scene again. Does the action scene actually accomplish its purpose? Critically assess it to make sure the scene adequately addresses the purpose in a clear way. Beta readers can be a wonderful resource in assessing single chapters to determine its purpose. A reader should finish the scene having learned something important about the character or story.

When scenes have a strong and clear purpose, and work to advance the reader’s understanding of the characters and story, readers will engage more fully with the story and feel that their effort in reading and following the action was worth the investment.

Action Scenes: The Basics

Action is often at the center of important story points and should grab the reader’s attention with realistic description and exciting actions.

The Purpose of Action

An action scene isn’t really about the action. It’s about how the character’s experience the action and how they are affected by it. Focusing on the sensory and emotional information of the action taking place can help you avoid tedious recounting of every movement.

An action scene should move the story forward. Action for action’s sake get old very quickly. It begins to fill like filler very quickly and can bore the reader. Always consider what the action is or needs to accomplish when writing an action scene.

Whether the hero wins of loses, he/she should learn something important from the experience. This may be actual information, understanding something out his or her self or the antagonist, or a skill or talent revealed (particularly in non-realistic storylines).

Action scenes should improve characterization. Consider why the characters are engaging in this action and what their feelings are about the encounter. Did they enter willingly, reluctantly, under duress, etc. What are their reactions during the experience and how will it affect them once the action is over, including long term?

The reader should learn something important about one or more of the characters during or as a result of the action. What does the character’s motivation to be involved in the action say about him or her? Similar questions help the reader become more personally invested in the story through their connection with the character.

Action scenes should help fulfill the purpose of the book. This relates to action needing to move the story forward, but it goes deeper. It asks that action scenes relate to the overall purpose of the book. Is that purpose to fulfill a quest, reveal hidden abilities, understand the self, etc.? Action can easily become an easy way to provide momentary excitement in an otherwise slow section, however, it will lack depth if that is its only purpose.

Action Basics

Action is often movement, though not in every situation. When writing action scenes such as chases, fights, combat, etc., it is important to balance describing movement with story needs. Avoid writing an entire action scene as blow-by-blow description. This quickly becomes tedious for the reader, and if the reader is not familiar with specific terminology it may be skimmed and important information might be missed. It also slows the pace of the story progression. Intersperse movement description with other story elements to keep the focus on the overall story as well as the immediate action.

When writing action scenes, strive for clarity. If the reader can’t understand what’s going on because it’s too chaotic, they will likely miss the point of the scene. Be specific on what is happening, but don’t overdo it with technical terms or pack in too many movements with little or no explanation on what is actually happening.

Focus on the experience, not the individual actions. Give the reader periodic breaks from the action with glimpses of what the characters are experiencing. These may be thoughts, emotions, observations, sensory input, etc.

We’ll cover show vs. tell later in this series, but keep in mind what the purpose of the scene is and write in a way that fulfills the purpose.

Book Blurbs: Crafting the Blurb

While the hook is critical to a great blurb, the body of the blurb deserves equal attention. Consider it’s effectiveness as a whole as well as it’s individual parts.

Word Choice Matters

Choosing the right words can make all the different in a blurb. Be certain to make sure your word choice communicates the tone of the story by using words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words.

Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. If you’re writing historical fiction that should be apparent within a few sentences through carefully selected words and phrases. Maintain regional accuracy without overloading the blurb with slang or colloquialisms.

It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it. Stuffing the blurb with hyperbole will exhaust the reader.

Avoid clichés, superfluous words, description, unnecessary adverbs, and “chatter” as much as possible. The blurb should be too the point and directly communicate the basics of the story to the reader.

Be Concise

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Blurbs placed on the back cover of a book may be longer depending on space available during formatting. Blurbs for online retailers should be on the shorter end of the range since people browsing often skim.

Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them in a blurb. Stick to the important highlights and leave backstory, secondary characters, subplots, and similar information to be discovered when reading the full book.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned. Expand on the bullet points with 1-2 sentences about each point.

Utilizing Cliffhangers

This isn’t a must in a hook, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge for readers toward purchasing.

Cliffhangers can also help you avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Cliffhangers focus on the main conflict the characters face but only hint at a possible resolution. It’s important to present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

The answer to how the story will resolve shouldn’t be too obvious.

Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. While most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, they don’t (or shouldn’t) all reach it the same way. Hint at the uniqueness and leave it at that.

Formatting the Blurb

Once you’ve finished crafting the blurb, the work isn’t quite done. It’s important to format blurbs according to genre conventions. Each main genre has it’s own nuances when it comes to formatting. Fore example:

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline.

Historical romance tends to use longer paragraphs with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest.

Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly. Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions to highlight a unique aspect of your story, but make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of the story.

Effective blurbs intrigue readers. Highlight the most interesting aspects of the book that will hook readers and make the need to find out more great enough to click the buy button.

Book Blurbs: Irresistible Hooks

The first few lines of a blurb should contain the hook, the attention-grabbing snippet of information about the book that will entice readers to wonder what will happen next and hopefully get them to buy the book.

Crafting the Hook

A great hook catches readers’ attention, but there are different ways to accomplish that. Consider these examples from published novels:

Write something that startles the reader: “Shaye Archer’s life effectively began the night police found her in an alley, beaten and abused and with no memory of the previous fifteen years, not even her name.” Malevolent by Jana DeLeon

Open with the inciting incident: “When Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, her parents are devastated—she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain.” Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Create intrigue: “Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.” Unspeakable Things by Jeffrey Eugenides

Introduce something ominous: “A bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims.” In the Heart of the Fire by Dean Koontz

Make the characters sympathetic and relatable: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?” The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Capture the reader’s heart : “Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story—it becomes an experience to remember forever.” The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Focus on the Main Characters

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. Trying to include side characters in a hook will make it too wordy and confusing for the reader. If a reader has to reread a hook to understand it, you’ve already lost them.

It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. That means focusing on the basics, the most intriguing aspects. Give his or her name, a few important traits that make the characters unique or interesting, explain what the situation is, and what dilemma or conflict the characters are going to face.

Staying focused on engaging and capturing the reader’s interest with a hook will help you pair down unnecessary details and highlight the strengths and uniqueness of your book.

Writing Professionalism: Responding to Criticism Effectively

Responding to criticism effectively can be challenging when dealing with clients, but these tips can help you assess and answer criticism in a professional manner.

Focus on the Objective

Make sure you are clear on the objective of the project as a whole and its individual components. If you’ve missed the objective in some way, the adjustments the client is asking for may be needed to more closely match the goal.

However, at times the objective of the project may be clear to you but a little more fuzzy for the client and his or her critique may reflect that. Make sure the client is clear on the objective and politely communicate how critique elements may negatively impact the project if changed. Back up your reasoning with research or expertise.

Be Specific and Take Action

If you disagree with a critique, explain concisely why you see it differently without attacking the client’s point of view. Being defensive or arguing hurts your professional image and is unproductive.

Take action on valid, specific criticism. Don’t be afraid to tell a client he or she is right or made a good point. Arguing based on ego will quickly lose return business with a client.

Assess Criticism for Merit

Determine what criticism is constructive and has merit and which is not. You can do this be asking a few questions.

Is the critique specific? If it is clear, logical, and defined, it most likely has merit because the client has thought deeply about it.

Is the critique actionable? Constructive criticism provides a path to correct or improve an element. If a client simply says they don’t like something, work with them to figure out why. The “why” provides a path to move forward.

Is the critique objective? When feedback is unbiased, it is much more useful. Consider the client’s perspective and why they feel the way they do. If the feedback is rational and appropriate, it usually has merit.

Think Before You React

Never respond to criticism automatically. Your first reaction is often the harshest and most difficult to moderate into a polite and professional response. Step away and take a breath to clear your mind in order to think rationally.

Reread the critique when you are more calm and note which points have merit and which don’t. Evaluate why some do not have merit and make sure ego isn’t the main reason.

Write out a response covering all points of critique. Accept those that have merit and address how you will correct them. Use logic, facts, and research in your response to those that do not have merit as if you were writing a literature review.

Do not respond by being defensive or attacking. This alienates the client and is unprofessional. Always be polite and professional.

Respond Professionally

Working with clients can be frustrating, however, you must never take it out on the client.

Alternative ways to handle criticism include:

  • Writing out your frustrations (pen and paper often work best for added physical element).
  • Talking to a friend (without divulging specifics that would compromise client confidentiality)
  • Doing a physical activity like taking a walk or exercising
  • Talking to another provider and asking for advice if the client is proving more difficult to work with than you know how to handle or you reach an impasse

Remember Whose Project It Is

The project is not yours. It’s the client’s.

You are helping them bring their concept to fruition, not creating your own book or cover design.

The most important aspect is that the client is happy with the end result. Strive for high-quality work, but be willing to bend to the client’s wishes to ensure their project is what they wanted it to be in the end.

Your job is to offer expert guidance, but the final decisions are the client’s, not yours. Personal preference should not factor into advice about changes or revisions. Stick with research, data, and industry trends.

“The client is always right” isn’t always literally true, but presenting suggestions in a way that allows the client to make the best decision for the project can make it true and make the project and relationship a success.

Successful interactions with clients assures continued work, a good reputation, and opportunities to improve your skills as a writer. Stay focused on the end goals when interacting with clients: a successful project and building a good relationship.

Writing Professionalism: Learning from Criticism

Handling criticism is challenging no matter the situation, but it can be especially difficult when coming from a client. Dealing with feedback and suggestions from clients can be viewed as a great opportunity to grow and improve.

Growing through Criticism

Criticism helps uncover blind spots. Habits become deeply ingrained over time and are often hard to change. An outside perspective shows where the weak areas are and where we need to improve our skills, whether that be writing, design, editing, or communication. When you receive feedback, especially if on the same topic from multiple clients, take it to heart and work on further developing that skill.

Criticism pushes you to challenge yourself. It can be easy to fall into the trap of reproducing something you know does well without working to be more creative, innovative, or aware of trends. Extending yourself to meet a clients needs encourages you to try new things and learn more skills, which will increase your chance at success in growing your business.

Criticism helps you develop communication skills. When conflict or problems arise, the issue must be dealt with using professional communication. Talking through problems and issues will benefit you with every new client if you learn from each discussion. If you find yourself having the same communication issues, make note and better prepare for the next client by addressing the issue sooner in the process.

Criticism provides outside motivation. When a client wants something out of your comfort zone or skillset, push yourself to learn about a new topic or develop a new skill. This is increase your value to clients and boost your reputation for being adaptable.

Criticism also provides a lesson on humility. You’re not always right and learning from others helps you grow and improve in many areas.

The Subjective Nature of Criticism

Remember that art, in all its forms, is subjective. Just because a client wants something different that you do doesn’t make them wrong. Accept that they come from a different viewpoint or life experience and are trying to communicate that through a story or design. Dismissing the client’s ideas is dismissing them as a person.

Taking criticism with a positive attitude can help you see the project from a new perspective. Critique of a project is exactly that. It’s not a critique of you personally. Not taking criticism personally is difficult, but practicing this perspective helps remove you from the criticism and keeps the focus on the success of the project.

It can be helpful to rewrite a client’s comments and replace any pronouns with the name of the book or “project.” This provides added distance and lessens the potential sting of feeling personally rejected.

Learning from Criticism

Take note of criticism from clients and analyze what it it really saying.

Do you need to update your skills or expand your knowledge base? Are you familiar enough with genre conventions or tropes? Are there too many similarities between projects? Does your wording or editing suggestions seem repetitive?

If you are getting the same feedback from multiple clients, it’s highly likely that you need to make an adjustment or work work on improvement in a specific area. Having this pointed out can be difficult, but it will ultimately make you a better writer, editor, or designer.

Focus on not making the same mistakes twice.

Writing Professionalism: Effective Client Communication

Communicating with clients effectively takes many of the same skills as in other important relationships.

Active Listening

Active listening is more than hearing, it’s fully concentrating on words, body language, and subtext, and internalizing the message without judgment or offering of advice. Active listening is the first step in understand what a client needs or what a problem entails. Fully take in what the client is saying with an open mind rather than planning a response of considering other options while the client is speaking.

After listening actively to the initial conversation, take the time to ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand or on issues you aren’t sure you are seeing in the same way as the client. Reflect back to the client what they said in your own words so you can check your understanding and so the client can clarify anything that isn’t being understood in the way he or she would like it to be understood.

Ask for clarification when needed rather than assume or guess. Lastly, summarize the message or problem for both yourself and the client. This process help ensure there are no misunderstandings or missing information.

Active listening shows respect, improves the chances of full understanding, and limits misunderstandings or missed information. To learn more about active listening, visit Very Well Mind.

Consistent Communication

Communicating with a client in a consistent manner is an important aspect of effective communication.

All attempts at communication with clients should be conducted in a professional manner. Even if you know the person personally prior to them becoming a client, adjust the client/provider interactions to reflect that new aspect of the relationship.

Avoid casual chatting, asking personal questions, or sharing personal information when engaged in business discussions. It is important to stay focused on the project and so you can ensure the client is satisfied. Use professional language, avoiding slang, excessive emojis, or profanity.

It’s also important to use a similar communication style in all interactions, so the client knows what to expect when they engage in a conversation with you. This helps clients become more familiar with your style as a service provider and allow them to anticipate how interactions will occur. Consistency improves chances of open communication and honesty.

Adapting your communication style to the client’s (in a reasonable manner) can help the client feel more accepted and heard. This doesn’t mean mimicking a client’s style of communication. Instead, adapt to what the client needs to feel comfortable during an interaction. This may mean detailed explanations or brief overviews, providing written notes or audio messages, scheduling chat sessions or dropping impromptu updates as you complete tasks.

Ask your client specifically about their communication style in order to know and meet their expectations.

Adapting Language

Another important adaptation to consider is that of adapting your language to the individual client. This includes word choice, determine what does or doesn’t need to be explained, or the level of technicality.

Few clients will be as well-versed in literary or marketing terms as the writer providing the service is. Simplify language when needed to fully explain a concept without over-simplifying it to the point of condescension. Explain issues or problems in plain language to avoid confusion.

Ask yourself how you learned a term or idea and if a lay person would have the same knowledge. Writers who are working with an editor for the first time may need grammatical or style changes explained, or a discussion on why a particular aspect goes against industry standards or retailer terms of service.

Don’t assume your client knows everything you do, but don’t speak to them like a they know nothing at all, either. Assess the client’s level of knowledge and adapt accordingly. Explain a concept as you would to a coworker who has asked for your expertise on a subject, not as a teacher would explain something to a child.

Clarity and Concision

Be clear and concise when speaking with clients in order to avoid unnecessary problems. When asking clients for feedback or to respond to a question, be clear in what information you need and concise in your wording so the client does not have to attempt to interpret your request or guess at what you want.

List specific details you need if you are requesting answers or information. Provide the list in whatever manner your client is most receptive too, such as a bulleted list, audio file, graphic, etc.

When requesting opinions or feedback, ask about specific items, not general concepts. “What do you think about this version?” is much less helpful than “Does this color palette inspire the emotional response you’re looking for?” If a client doesn’t like something, they often have trouble pinpointing exactly what they don’t like. Asking specific questions makes giving feedback easier for the client and avoids lengthy back and forth conversations guessing at the main problem.

Provide timely updates on your progress. Don’t leave the client wondering what you are working on or when they will next hear from you. Clearly communicate any delays and the reasons for the delay, without crossing a line of professional boundaries.

Focusing on your client’s needs and giving full effort to communicating effectively will help avoid confusion, disappointment, and frustration.

Writing Professionalism: Getting Started Working with Clients

Building relationships with clients and having effective interactions is key to success in growing a service-oriented business.

Many authors don’t just write, they also provide services to other authors and to various writing clients. Learning how to interact with clients on a professional level can help you develop strong relationships with clients and grow your writing business.

The Importance of Working with Clients

As an editor, copywriter, ghostwriter, freelancer writer, etc., you will interact with clients on a regular basis during a project. The better those interactions go, the better the overall project will go as well.

It is critical that writers understand the importance of working with clients and the level of professionalism expected by clients. Clients who feel they are not valued or respected are unlikely to come back for another project with you.

An inability to interact with clients professionally will likely result in being awarded fewer projects. The writing community is small and reputations matter a great deal. If clients are unwilling to work with a service provider, other writers will hear about it fairly quickly.

Providing the client with excellent customer service, no matter the situation, is key a successful service-oriented business.

The Importance of Great Communication with Clients

Working with clients is all about building relationships. Like any relationship, effective communication improves the chances of building a strong relationship with your clients. Developing great relationships with clients helps to ensure repeat business. Repeat customers help the overall business and helps individual writers have more consistent work.

Poor communication leads to confusion, hurt feelings, dissatisfaction, and unfulfilled needs. Expectations should be communicated clearly at the beginning of the project to ensure you can meet them and that the client knows what product or service you will be providing and how and when it will be provided. This should include updates and progress reports.

Effective Communication when Getting to Know Clients

Monitoring tone is important in both verbal and written communication. It’s easier to interpret tone when a message is spoken, but if a new client is not familiar with you personally, jokes or sarcasm might not be taken in the right way.

In written communication, tone is even more easily be misconstrued. Be aware of how your words might be taken by someone who is still not yet familiar with you and your style of communication.

Connotation is the non-definition meaning people attach to words or ideas. Everyone has different connotations, making word choice extremely important in written messages where body language or vocal tone is absent. If you tend to use humor or sarcasm, these are especially in danger of being misinterpreted. Be cautious of using too much of this type of language when first getting to know a client.

Choose words that are universal and harder to misinterpret when explaining what services you will provide and the process you will use to complete the project.

It is also important to use concise language to communicate an issue or problem so the client knows exactly what is going on and how you intend to fix it. The more clearly the problem is defined, the more easily the client will be able to offer useful information to address it as well.

Working Through Problems with Clients

Be friendly and polite in all situations, even if a client is being difficult to work with or manage. Any message, including and especially problems, that communicated in a friendly, upbeat, and personable way are more likely to be received favorably. This will make finding solutions and working through the problem much less challenging.

Never use language that places blame or attacks the client. If information or materials are missing from what the client was supposed to provide, politely remind him or her that they are needed and ask when you can expect them. Make suggestions in a manner that offers a solution rather than simply stating a problem.

Ask for feedback on suggestions when problems are encountered. Show genuine interest in the client’s thoughts and reasoning, even if they are difference from your own ideas or plans for addressing an issue. Because clients are most familiar with a projects, they will have unique insights.

If a client disagrees with your plan of action or proposed solutions, acknowledge their input and accept their final decision graciously. You are providing a service, but the ultimate outcome of the project is his or her decision.

Always use basic manner, such as please and thank you, in your communications. Not getting along with a client doesn’t mean it’s okay to be disrespectful or rude.

Telling Clients “No”

Saying no to a client is always challenging, but it will almost always go better if you can find a way to reject an idea in a positive way.

There may be times when a client wants something that go against a retailer’s policies, client or genre expectations, or will be detrimental to a projects success. It is an important skill to be able to explain why an idea won’t work in a positive and respectful way.

Avoid actually saying the word “no” when possible. A better approach is to fully explain the problem. For instance, explicit sex scenes int eh first chapter, rape or incest as a main storyline, and similar taboos will go against many retailer’s terms of service and block a book from being published or prevent it from being found by customers.

Once you fully explain the problem, back up your reasoning with facts and data when possible. Amazon categorizes books with explicit sex in the first 25% of the book as erotica and will bury it, and most retailers will remove books containing incest or rape as a main storyline. Explaining this policies can help a client understand why a project element will harm its overall success.

Offer a solution to the problem after presenting it. The client may need to add more character development in early chapter to push explicit sex further back, and alter a storyline to remove unacceptable or banned taboo topics.

If a client is unwilling to change or alter a project element that you know will hurt the project’s success, it may be necessary to end the relationship. Do so politely and with explicit reasons of why you have reached an impasse. Not every partnership is a good fit, and it is better to end what isn’t working than let it devolve into unprofessionalism.

Remember that your reputation in the writing community will greatly affect your overall success in growing a service-oriented writing business.

Writing Compelling Conflict: Fixing Conflict that Doesn’t Work

Conflict may fall flat for a variety of reasons. If a source of conflict is not providing the needed progression or reader interest, consider why it isn’t working.

One-Source Conflict

Conflict, particularly the main story conflict, cannot come from a single source and be realistic and effective. A mix of internal and external conflict is needed to support a full story arc.

Consider which type of conflict the story is most heavily leaning on and work to balance it out. If internal conflict is dominating, create more instances of external conflict that relates back to the main internal conflict and pushes the character to develop new skills or grow in some way. These often appear in subplots and focus on individual skills or traits the character needs to develop.

Simple Conflict

Conflict that is not complex enough is boring and too easily resolved to hold the reader’s attention or provide meaningful opportunities for character growth and development.

This is another great use for subplots that can raise the stakes of the main conflict, make the character’s faults and weakness have a bigger impact on the main storyline, and make the character fail more often.

Provide ample opportunities for the character to learn and grow or the change needed at the end will feel too abrupt and unsupported to be believable.

Superficial Conflict

If the conflict a character faces is not impactful enough or too easily resolved, delve deeper. Figure out what the source of the conflict is rather than focusing on how it manifests. Dig until the character is bare, then use that knowledge to create more meaningful obstacles.

Predictable Conflict

If the reader can see what is coming a mile away, he or she will get bored and move on. Do not set a character on the first path that comes to mind without exploring all the options.

Develop unusual paths for growth, obstacles that arise from unexpected sources, and resolutions that may end the way the reader expected (such as a happily ever after ending) but do not come about in the expected way.

Examine each trope or tactic used and come up with an alternative way to integrate it, such as a character losing the job she spent the whole book working toward but being offered an alternative that will use her skills in an unexpected way.

Conflict in a Bubble

A story and its sources of conflict should extend beyond the page. Conflict that exists in a bubble often occurs due to lack of backstory development and consideration of the character’s future.

That final scene kiss in a romance won’t be as delicious if the reader is left feeling like the characters are underdeveloped and incapable of sustaining the relationship long-term.

The characters of a story did not come into existence on page one. Their lives prior to the story beginning brought them to the moment that takes place on page one. The characters’ current situation will have important impacts on the choices and actions made and taken throughout the story. Consider how a character got to page one and how past experiences will complicate or hinder his or her future.

Conflict only drives a story when it is carefully developed and well thought out. Taking the time to delve into the sources and impacts of conflict in a story will make it more meaningful, realistic, and powerful.

Writing Compelling Conflict: Resolving Conflict

The resolution to conflict, both main and subplot conflict, must be believable. That means it must makes sense for the characters and overall story, and have been reached through a logical progression of events, actions, and decisions.

If conflict resolution does not meet these criteria, the reader will be left unsatisfied and may even lose interest in the writer.

Resolution of the main conflict should be a progression of smaller resolutions, each one wrapping up a subplot conflict that served a purpose in helping the character grow and develop enough to resolve the main conflict. Resolving minor conflicts is key because those conflicts are often the reasons (taken all together) for the main conflict.

Internal change shapes the character’s underlying goals and helps him or her focus more fully on achieving the main goal. Once the underlying goals are better aligned, it is easier for the character to more clearly see how to resolve the main conflict.

It is imperative that the the minor and major conflicts resolve in ways that satisfies the reader and doesn’t leave him or her with unanswered questions. This does not mean that the resolution has to be the expected option or that the reader will like the resolution. It does mean that resolution satisfies the initial questions posed and promises made to the reader at the beginning of the story.

Evaluating Resolution

Reread the first chapter and ask yourself how you want the story to end. Then ask yourself what you are willing to see each character give up in order to achieve that ending.

Do your answers to these questions line up with how the story ended? If not, why? If so, did you fully explore all options for resolution or are you taking the easy, expected way out of the story? Avoid cliched, stereotypical, and unrealistic endings.

If a female main character gives up all of her goals to fulfill the male main character’s goals instead, you are bound to get more than a few eye rolls from readers unless you provide very convincing reasons for that choice. After spending so much time and energy developing strong conflict, don’t short change the resolution by failing to consider all options and making needed revisions that will improve the resolution.

Ask yourself what steps make sense for each character to get from page one to the final resolution. Is anything out of character or difficult to justify? If so, take the time to rework or flesh out unsatisfying points of a character’s development. If you can fully develop the character’s journey and individual points of conflict, the resolution will flow from that journey to a satisfying ending more easily.