Thursday, October 14, 2010

What to Do With the Conflict I Planned On, Part 4

Continued from How to Plan for Conflict, Part 3

Hypothetical reflection:

I planned on more things going wrong, but I never expected this.  I stood there at the entrance of the haunted house in my demonic roller derby biotch outfit complete with bleeding wounds to the arms, face, and neck, looking out at a what was far more than two hundred people waiting to get into our 400-square foot house.  When we were building the house, 400-square feet seemed pretty big for a little cul-de-sac event, now I wasn't so sure. 

"How many people would you say that is?" I asked my husband, James. 

"Well, considering the line goes to the end of the road, around the corner, and halfway down the other street, I'm going to guess upwards around five hundred people.  Could be more by now," he said adjusting his DJ Lance wig and glasses. 

"James!  We're going to be in there all night!" I said, slipping in my Sketcher roller skates and eating shit on the pavement. 

"Christ!  Are you okay?"  I wasn't mortally wounded but now I couldn't tell the difference between the real blood and the fake blood.  I thought back to the previous year with only maybe one hundred and fifty guests.  Me, James, my sister and her husband were inside the hot little house for two hours without a break.  Although we had people bringing lemonade in for us as they went through, we were desperate for some fresh air.  Five hundred or more?  I wasn't sure it could be done before midnight.  That meant five hours in there. 

Once we got going, I calmed down and the bleeding in my knee stopped, for sure, I think.  The first one hundred people came and went quickly.  The food table items went fast but we still had a lot of candy that we were handing out inside and that seemed to keep everyone at bay. 

It was the sudden scream echoing through the haunted house that nearly took me to the ground again.  Sure there were screams in the haunted house, but this one was different.  I rolled through the darkness into the strobe light room to see what was going on.  I felt like screaming for a minute when a figure seemed to be walking straight through the wall.  "What the hell?" I thought.  The strobe was screwing up my sight and making me feel unsteady but I managed to make it over there around the same time James did.  James' familiar bellowing laugh led me to believe whatever was going on at the end of the room was something ridiculous in nature.  Sure enough, one of the many kids running arond the outside managed to run straight through the wall. 

At first, I thought this was going to be a catastrophe of monumental porportions, but one of my neighbor's who dressed up as Carrie (blood and all) came to the rescue.  She covered the opening and actually turned it into another scare spot.  Believe me, it was scary seeing bloody Carrie coming through the exterior wall under the strobe light. 

And if I had more time to chat, I would tell you all about what happened when the cops showed up and asked for a permit. 

In real life we do whatever we can to avoid conflict.  We don't want to wake up late, have a kid miss the school bus, get in a car accident on the way to work, or forget to pick up one or more of the kids on a minimum day at school.  We try to plan for that kind of conflict and then avoid it.

In book writing, we have to plan for conflict and make it happen.  Some of us writers (I read a lot of blogs so I know it's not just me) tend to make notes (mental/paper, what's the difference?) of character traits and characteristics.  But have you thought about making notes of potential conflict so you can add it into your story later at some point.  Some of us have enough conflict going on around us that it's easy to write up a notepad full of ideas, others of us need to go out and find it.  Here are a few good places to get real life conflict:
  • Listen better to what your friends, family, neighbors are telling you about the drama in their lives.
  • Public places like the park, coffee shop, anywhere people congregate and can't help but be overheard.
  • Reality television.
  • Jerry Springer or any of the like.
  • Read the news more.
  • Pick up a couple of tabloids every now and then (watch for copyright infringement, just get an idea of types of conflict, don't rip any off.  Same goes for all of these).
  • If you are planning anything think of all the things you hope WON'T happen and then make that a point of conflict in your notepad.

How do you come up with conflict?  What kinds of things inspire your conflict?  If you could add to my list, what would it be?  (Here's hoping that I don't run into any of the types of conflict I mentioned above during the actual haunted house.)

Thank you for following this series of posts.  This year's haunted house is October 23rd.  I will follow-up with pics and story for all.

Framing it up 2009.

The black light room is always a hit.

Construction crew 2009.

Tear down 2009.


  1. Fascinating photographs. Don't need to invent conflict, at my age I've experienced enough to keep me going through many many books... :0)

  2. Carole Anne - I love that you don't need to invent conflict. Age can be a beautiful thing and a great advantage. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Another great post. I missed the "hypothetical" at the beginning of the post and was confused for a few minutes since I know the roller derby biotch is this year's costume. I figured it out though. Loved how you wrote that, but hopefully you don't have to add any real blood to your costume on the actual day.

    Reading these posts is making me want to buy a plane ticket. Haha!

    As for conflict, I'm pretty twisted so I don't have trouble coming up with stuff. Remind me to tell you about my favorite scene I've ever written :)

    Anyway, I think the greatest conflict comes from the interaction between characters. Sure a car accident or something is horrible and can be a set back, but emotional drama is always more interesting -- to me anyway. This type of conflict provides room for growth and for characters to step up. Like "Carrie" stepping up to help with the wall.

  4. That last thing that I wrote made more sense when I was half asleep this morning. Sorry.

    I guess what I was trying to say is that I like conflict between characters -- interpersonal conflict.

  5. Wow you are ambitious. That haunted house is quite a deal. I wouldn't even dream of trying something like that!

  6. Awesome Patty! I have truly enjoyed this series. It has not only been informative, but completely entertaining as well. I am still laughing about the hypothetical above! Well written. Thank you for posting this series. And God knows we live enough conflict for a lifetime of novels! :)

  7. Conflict is always one of the easiest (dare I say, most fun?) parts of writing fiction. Don't what to do with a scene? Characters feel a little flat? Dialogue stumbling? Just throw in a good argument and everything will be piping hot again in seconds!

  8. Dude! I wish my neighborhood wasn't so snobby...I'd LOVE to do something like that. You guys are badass and awesome! I wanna be your new BFF, K?

    Love your hypothetical! :) (except not the part where you wipe out and get a 'real' boo-boo.)

    Can't ait to see the pictures!!! (I'm hidden away in revisions and don't want to miss them, so please, PLEASE leave a comment on my blog or email me and let me know they're up. )


    Happy weekend! :)