New Edit! How to tell if your story needs more conflict.
It's been a while since we've done an edit, so it was high time! Both of the stories we read tonight were awesome, but both had some opportunities to develop conflict. Here are some of the warning signs of a scene that needs a little extra conflict and some options on solving them:
Is your main character following orders? Is someone else in the scene defining the goal or asking questions? Ensure your main character is the character driving each scene forward. In the majority of scenes (and especially the ones early in your story) your hero should have something they want, there should be consequences if they don't get it, and there should be some obstacle in their way.
Are there talking heads? Is one character saying "Hello," and another replying "Hi, how are you?" Well, you might have started your scene a bit too early. It's okay to cut to the drama in screenplays and in prose. Get to the action, and cut the pages readers want to skip.
Is there nothing at stake? What happens if the characters stop whatever they're doing and grab a cup of coffee? If you shrugged, then your scene may need more stakes. The blood of a scene is necessary action. Like I said before, consequences give weight to the goals the characters have, but those consequences need to be as URGENT as possible. Ask yourself, why does this scene need to happen right now? Try to work urgency into each scene goal you generate for your stories.
Here's the video of the edit where we go into a WHOLE lot more detail on each of these points:
And here's a copy of my notepad edits in case you're curious:
The Afterlife and Time of Robert Crowley: --Logline - look to include an ironic twist AFTER the setup you've established. P3 - Good job setting the scene when we enter P3 - The old guy speaking to the inanimate objects is something I've read a lot before - is there a way to reinvent this more to the voice of your story. P4 - Perhaps pick a few details about his office rather than listing all of them. P4 - Why is ARthur who seems so trusting of even the dead, grabbing things to defend himself? P6 - We need some conflict here with the guy and ARthur - maybe Robert is wounded? Maybe we establish ARthur as being less trusting? Etc. P6 - Perhaps start with EXT. GRAVEYARD - NIGHT - I don't think I need to know all this stuff about Arthur that the first 2 scene establish P6 - "Think amnesia..." On the nose line - perhaps do a dialogue pass. P7 - Getting a little more "How are you" "I am fine" dialogue that doesn't drive the movement of the scene forward. P8 - Dialogue is carrying too much exposition - it's telling me he's lost his phone rather than showing him looking around frantically. Asking "Did you see an Samsung Note around here?" P9 - WE have been talking about his ghostliness for a while. I want to start learning the rules of his new world rather than getting continued hints at something I've already guessed. P10 - A lot of coffee in this story, but great use of dialogue for Margo - I can really hear your voice . P11 - WE had the setup scene of Arthur / Robert talking, but now in the cafe I want to see something go wrong b/c of Robert's ghostliness P11 - Robert's character seems the least interesting and the least voiced out of all these - he has no visible quirks besides deadness. P11 - Robert is REACTING - he's not pushing for a goal which is making him feel slow P11 - Calling someone a PITA seems out of character for friendly Arthur GOOD: --LOVE the setup and the concept of the story - this really works well --Great scene imagery and description - remember to use those props in your story to pay dividends --Like the characterization of Arthur and Margo IMPROVE: -- Robert needs a bit more quirk and color - he should be the star - the secondary characters are stealing the show from him a little bit due to their great characterization -- Robert is passive in these scenes. Answer or asking questions, responding in predicable ways, and letting Arthur make the plans. We need a GOAL from Robert and an obstacle that he has to over come in EACH scene. -- FROM CyberSword526: Improve: be more straightforward with your descriptions and be more precise on your nuances in the story. Less of character specific details and more set building for a director/reader/viewers to build off of. -- I really want to see a TWIST - ghost stories and even ones where the ghost isn't aware are common, what makes your story unique? And can we get that twist suggested in the logine and the early pages.