Conflict and the Ten Year Old

Conflict…an essential element of any story in the 21st Century. 

I know this because I’ve just come back from the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference in New York City where I attended several workshops attempting to really show us the core of what conflict means.   And not just that, but how it affects almost every aspect of your writing.  If you know what you’re doing with internal conflict, then you’ll have characters the readers care about.  If you can boil the main conflict of your story down to 25 words or less, you may just have a high concept which will help you have a dazzling pitch.  A tight, fast-paced novel with no sagging middle means you know what you’re doing with external conflict and your readers will appreciate that.   Every stage from the pitch, query, synopsis, the meat of the book…if you’ve got the conflict down, then you’re on the right path. 

Pages and pages of copious notes and a few days later to soak it all up, and I’m pretty sure I have a firm understanding. 

So yesterday as I was sitting with my ten-year old son on the couch, winding down from a week in the crazy beautiful city of New York, a commercial came on for Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball.  And my son very casually said to me, “Mom, did you see how that balloon just fell in love with the cactus.  If it does that, it’s going to die.”

I put my notes away and watched Cartoon Network with my son the rest of the day. 

Have a great day everyone!

17 thoughts on “Conflict and the Ten Year Old

  1. Out of the mouths of babes, especially offspring of talented aspiring writers!

  2. Wow! I’m going to have to internalize that one and get back to you! Aidan doesn’t miss a beat!

  3. Observe, predict, conclude. Storyteller or scientist?

    This reminds me of our daughter at 4 or 5. She watched Anne of Green Gables over and over and over. One day, a guest commented on how much she must love it. Carol didn’t miss a beat: “It’s my religion.”

    Uh… oh, well. Obviously, we’d been saying the wrong things. But later, she could analyze stories like a pro, spot plot points, and analyze for theme, motif, PORD, HEA – all of it. Now she’s writing her own novel (she’s 27). Maybe you’re raising your son to be a writer, too!

  4. I would say that a relationship between a cactus and a balloon would have several layers of conflict. And several sharp, sticky points. LOL.

  5. Mom (Claudia)–First off welcome to the Waterworld Mermaids and thank you so much for your sweet comment! I knew you would eventually figure out how to leave a comment! Just kidding.

    Kathleen– I know, right? Of course this from the boy who at seven’s favorite movie was Phantom of the Opera. I think he has a real appreciation for darkness. His hero is Darth Vader afterall. And he knows most of the words to Depeche Mode’s songs! All of which are laden with internal conflict!

    Susan– I hope you make that one of your blog points in the future: “Storyteller or Scientist?” I love that “It’s my religion!” I guess there’s something to be said about starting them young!

  6. Carlene, I love it! When you think about it, so many kids’ programs are organized tightly around plot. For example, Super Agent Oso (maybe too young for your ten year old) is about a super agent bear who helps kids solve problems. Every episode is about a different problem, and there are “three special steps” that must be accomplished in order to solve the problem. There’s even a subplot every episode of a training exercise that Oso must complete. He has problems with it, but as he helps the kids solve their problems, he learns/remembers a special tip that will help him complete the exercise. Every minute of these episodes moves the plot forward! A lot can be learned by spending some time on your couch with your kid!

  7. I love your son’s comment. It was the perfect antidote to your post.

    I, too, heard the word ‘conflict’ so often last week at RWA11 I thought I’d self-combust. But I also knew the RWA experts knew exactly what the deal was with this topic.

  8. Ahhh – that’s awesomesauce! Kids are the best. I might borrow your son to help me with a new story I’m working on. What’s he charge? 😉

    1. Kerri–Hahaha,
      Word on the street is that my kid will do almost anything for a spicy peanut butter and pickle sandwich!

  9. Let’s hear it for our kids! What was that radio show by Art Linkletter, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”?

    At three, my oldest (now 19) came into the kitchen after watching SnowWhite for the 100th time, carrying an empty Huggies Wipes box and said–“Bring me back her heart!” with the infliction reserved only for the wicked queen–I knew then it was time to stop baking cookies.

    They can be so poignant at times. 🙂

  10. Your boy is sharp! Remember he is the one that said “Spartans taste nasty”. Another observation made by the boy that is most influenced by his mamma. He definitely doesn’t get all those deep, artistic thoughts from me. Cerebrally, he is all you, physically perhaps me but mentally, emotionally and his thoughtfulness is all you. Thank you, for making him a caring, loving boy.

  11. PH–I absolutely agree! It kind of reminds me of how easy it is for me to watch cartoons in Spanish rather than trying to understand the evening news. They really make things concise and to the point on kids’ shows without losing the poignancy.

  12. No deep comments. Just wanted you to know I continue to read the blog. And love every post and comment. Right to the point!

  13. Loni Lynne and Adrian–

    Yes, Kids do say the Darndest Things! I’m just glad our kids are quoting kids programs! I think when I was this age, my mom let me watch Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” and boy oh boy did I have some humdingers recited from that one!

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