Question of the Month
copyright 2001 by Alicia Rasley
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Questions about scene conflicts and about industry websites.
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I'm confused. It's my understanding that each scene must have a
goal, which in turn has an external motivation behind the goal, and an internal motivation for the goal. It's my understanding also that each scene must have a conflict, which in turn has an exterior conflict and an internal conflict.
The external goal/conflict is easier for me to figure out. I can't
figure out the internal stuff. Can you give me an example of how each of these will show itself (goal: internal/external; conflict: internal/external) in a scene?
You ask such tough questions! <G>
Okay, now, consider that there is a booklength external conflict and a booklength internal conflict. And there are major internal and external motivations that guide the character through every event in the story.
You don't need separate motivations and conflicts for each scene, rather they're likely to be pieces or aspects of the larger ones which arise because of this situation.
Let me come up with an example. Hmm. I have a character, Theresa, who was adopted when she was 7 by a wealthy family. She's in her 30s now and has had no contact with her birth family since the adoption. So she comes back to her hometown and decides to find her parents. That's her overall story goal.
So Goal: I want to locate my birth parents.
Now what's her motivation? Her -external- motivation is the one she can state out loud to anyone who asks.
External motivation: I remember I had siblings, and want to see them again.
What's her -internal- motivation, what is driving her from within but she can't at this point quite acknowledge?
Internal motivation: I've always felt like the outsider in my adoptive family, and maybe my birth family will make me feel like I belong.
Now conflict is often what's between her and the goal, or the problems and issues pursuing the goal bring up in her. (There are other genesises <sp> of conflict, but those are good ones.) So what's her external conflict?
External conflict: My adoptive mother doesn't want me to find my parents, and is making it difficult.
What internal problem/issue is also hampering her or making trouble?
Internal conflict: I unconsciously think that the reason I was given up for adoption and the reason my new family never really "fit" is because there's something wrong with me.
Okay! That's all the BOOK stuff-- the overall story goal, motivation, and conflict. Now how does that apply to a scene? I think what I need to do is to look at the scene and decide what piece or aspect of the book-long goal, etc, it pursues.
So let's say there's the scene where she goes to the courthouse to find the birth records.
Her goal: I want to get my birth certificate. (I haven't done any research yet, so I'm just guessing at what that would take, etc)
Her external motivation: My parents' names will be on the birth certificate, plus I need that to get other records.
Her internal motivation: If I find the birth certificate, I'll know I really did exist before the Wakefields adopted me.
External conflict: The clerk finds the birth certificate, but then won't give it to her, saying, "Does your mother know you're doing this?" and keeps me waiting while he makes a phone call.... to my adoptive mom, probably.
Internal conflict: I'm afraid of what I'll find if I do get the
birth certificate... maybe mom is trying to protect me from finding out that my birthparents were serial murderers.
NOW... how does this all affect her ACTIONS?
She goes to the courthouse and demands the birth certificate. But when she encounters interference (external conflict of scene), she wavers. Not sure she wants to pursue it this bad-- what if the clerk tells his friends and everyone in town hears about it... IOW, her internal conflict of being afraid of what she might find makes her ambivalent about achieving the goal. When the clerk goes to call her mom, however, the larger conflict between her and mom fires her anger and forces her into action (she steals the birth certificate off his desk, maybe).
Think of the motivation and conflict as pullers and pushers. The motivation pulls her towards the goal, but the conflict is shoving her from behind or shoving her back or shoving her in another direction. How is that going to play out in this scene?
So yes, have Goal, Motivation, and Conflict in every scene, but usually they're all going to be aspects or pieces of the larger GMC. And what's important is-- how do they impel this character to act and react? ACTION is the ultimate purpose of motivation and conflict-- to cause the character to do something she has to do to be in this story. :)
How do I keep in touch with what's happening in the publishing industry without spending money I don't have?
The good old Web has plenty of sites with publishing news. Here are a few-- now keep in mind, sites go in and out of business, but most of these seem pretty stable. I find the agent sites are the most helpful to writers.
Publishing news sites
http://publishersweekly.com/ Sign up for the PW Daily -- this free email newsletter is aimed at booksellers, but has news of deals, mergers, and industry controversies.
http://www.cnn.com/2000/books/news -- Daily news about books, with reviews and interviews.
http://www.suspense.net/buzz/ Headlines and links about publishing news, including prizes, big deals, and editorial moves.
General media sites
http://www.inside.com --- Articles, great links to other news sources, and free newsletters for media, books, TV, and film. Unfortunately, much of the material now is by subscription only.
http://www.poynter.org/medianews/ Jim Romenesko's Media News offers more insider information, often with sharp commentary, and many links to other media sites.
http://www.mediaweek.com Check out the fun "buzz" column for industry gossip at Mediaweek.
http://www.bookmouth.com Bookmouth provides an irreverent and often cynical view of the industry, with author interviews, publishing pro interviews, and "biting commentary."
http://homepages.go.com/~caderbooks/ Michael Cader sends a free email publishing newsletter every day at noon-- just click on his links to go to the articles. He also has a message board and a job board.
http://www.holtuncensored.com/ Pat Holt champions the cause of the independent bookseller with a website and a weekly newsletter with news, gossip, and opinion-- sometimes inflammatory opinion. Her
exchanges with letter writers are always fun.
Agent news sites
http://www.literaryagents.org Todd James Pierce has a valuable site that keeps track of hot agents and the deals they make. He also includes articles about getting and working with agents.
http://www.agentresearch.com/ Agent Research and Evaluation provides news about literary agents, links to writing and publishing sites. ... and a bestseller list that actually identifies the agents who sold the bestsellers!
http://www.wired.com/news Wired is the go-to site for Web business news, and often has analysis of electronic publishing trends.
http://www.ebookad.com/ Ebookad features headlines, news articles, publisher ads, reviews, and links, plus a message board for e-publishing related announcements.
http://www.ebookconnections.com EBook Connections offers e-book bestseller lists, reviews, surveys, book excerpts, and newsletters on the electronic publishing industry.
http://www.ebookweb.com/ EBookweb gives a good introduction to electronic publishing, with news, a glossary of terms, instructions on using e-books, and weekly columns.
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