Conflicted

September 24, 2012

Something wasn’t right. Her stomach did a small flip flop as he told her his shift had been changed. She had an unreasonable sense of foreboding. After all, what was the big deal? It was just a shift change…three weeks later he came home and told her he was no longer employed.

During that same time period her mother had a standard surgery. It should have been an easy recovery. She should have been back to business as usual within a couple of weeks, but six weeks later, her mother still couldn’t keep any food down, still wasn’t able to leave the house.

Of course, these things weren’t enough. Her youngest son moved out of the house, not a tragedy, but an emotional time for any mother. There were two funerals to attend. She got a new job, after years of being a stay-at-home mom. Let’s add a little credit card fraud, and that wasn’t all…you know how it is, when it rains it pours.

It’s easy to find the conflict in my real life. I read through the paragraphs above and think, hmmm too much, overkill, but that was how our year began, and I didn’t even put all of it in print, just the biggest things. Luckily, just like in any good romance, most of those things have slowly been resolved. Hunky Hubby is back to work—he got a great job. My mother has fully recovered. I’ve adjusted to youngest son’s move, and taken care of the credit card fraud.

With all of that conflict in my real life, you’d think fictional conflict would be easy, but when I finished the first draft of my novel, I knew the conflict just wasn’t strong enough, and it was much too easily resolved, but during rewrites, months of rewrites, I found places for conflict to naturally occur. Things happened, minor characters emerged, subplots were exposed, and I found the conflict.

Why, when I finally got my synopsis down to three pages, did the conflict disappear?
I was all ready to send off my submissions, to fill the requests I received at RWA2012, when a writer friend volunteered to read my synopsis for me. She sent me a message saying, “We should talk. I’m not sure about the conflict in your story. Maybe it shows up more in the manuscript than in the synopsis?”

So I reread the synopsis. I think I’ve hit all of the key points, but the conflict that is in the story seems to dissipate in the synopsis. The moments are there, but they lose their drama.

Help! How do you keep the conflict clear when condensing nearly ninety thousand words to about a thousand words?

I’m back at my desk, full manuscript spread out with Post-it® notes at all of the major points of conflict, yes I know there are more high tech ways to do this, but I have a new phone that’s smarter than me, and I can’t figure out how to make my Netflix work, so I’m going with the Post-it® notes on the manuscript.

How do you keep the conflict strong in a synopsis? I’d love some tips, some good examples, any advice that you might have. And, hopefully next Monday, I’ll write about how I got the conflict out of my real life and into the synopsis! A little help please?

Tari

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One Response to “Conflicted”


  1. I wish I had advice for you, Tari, but the synopsis kills me each and every time! 😦

    E

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