Saturday, May 19, 2012

Applying Story Engineering To Internal Conflict

I've had the privilege to speak with Larry Brooks--love this guy--recently and I asked him a question I've been dying to ask him every since I read his book Story Engineering. I thought you guys might like to read Larry's answer.

Monique: Hi, Larry, 

I’ve read many books on writing and story structuring over the years and I can say, without a doubt, Story Engineering is one of the very best I’ve read. I love the Plot Point/Pitch Point method (Milestones) you teach in your book.
But we all know that category romance is all about strong internal emotional conflict. However, when we think of structuring our stories, we automatically think of all the exciting external conflicts we can write.
Unfortunately, this is not what category romance is about. If we wish to write for this market, we must narrow our focus on our protagonists’ emotional conflicts—all the internal stuff.
Can you show us how to use the Plot Points and Pitch Point Milestones for internal conflict?

Let's begin with an assertion: the principles of structure are no different in category romance than in any other genre, romance and otherwise. That said, the very essence of "genre" is a specific emphasis and certain criteria, so in that sense category romance is very much a narrow lane. The issue is APPLYING the principle, not looking to bend it.
The essence of the pinch points and the other milestones (plot points and the mid-point) is the nature of the narrative content. With pinch points, it simply means the story shows us the antagonistic force, thus reminding us of what the hero(ine) is up against. This applies with equal effectiveness to both internal arcs and exterior conflicts. In fact, the former usually depends on and informs the latter... an external story point is the CATALYST for an emotional response. When that response changes the story (evolves it), then it becomes a powerful one-two punch for both pinch points and other milestones.
Let's look at an example. Say the nature of the "conflict/opposition" in a story is age -- the lover/hero is a lot older than the heroine, and her family and friends don't approve. She needs their approval (for whatever reasons)... thus, her emotional journey. Let's say we're at the 38th percentile in the story, the target location for a pinch point. We need to SEE this antagonistic force -- his age, their disapproval -- in full glory at this point.
So... the hero comes to a family gathering with our heroine. Her brothers are all over this guy, treating him as an old fart. A driveway basketball game ensues... and not only does our guy look better with his shirt off than her beer-swilling brothers , he actually challenges them to a two-on-two game, with HER as his teammate. And they win. He's a vastly superior athlete, even though he's twice the age of the brothers. Her affection for him is deepened (hormones tweaked by his physicality, and his grace in victory), and yet, her family is even more resistant simply because the brother's masculinity has been challenged, and defeated.
Okay, maybe not the coolest example, but I hope you see the relationship between exterior conflict and the heroine's inner landscape: both are elemental to the pinch point. Which is as it should be.

Monique: Thank you so much, Larry.

Larry is amazing! You can find out more about him here: Story Fix. To purchase a copy of Story Engineering go to AmazonUK or and where ever else Larry says on him blog!

You can show Larry your appreciation by buying his books.

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