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Ms. Ross writes Romance novels.
5/15/06 6:54:43 PM Opening "Chat Log 5/15/06"
W2PSushi: quiet to far
origjasstorm: Yeah it is.
W2PSushi: a bunch of people linked to JA Konrath's talk, on their own blogs
W2PSushi: bumped us up a mile, on Google!
origjasstorm: that's great.
origjasstorm: Hey JoAnn............ Glad to see you.
JoAnnRoss: Hey -- It's good to be here. Almost didn't make it because my dogs had cornered an opossum!
origjasstorm: Oh no! What happened?
JoAnnRoss: We rescued the dogs. LOL
JoAnnRoss: Just two minutes ago so it was a little hectic around here!
JoAnnRoss: Does anyone know how many lines you can write before you run out of room? Because I'm going to be trying to cut and paste between word and the chat for a while.
BornToVector: it is something like 232 characters, about 2 and 1/2 lines
JoAnnRoss: Okay. I guess I'll just type as I go and we'll all ignore typos, okay?
origjasstorm: :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::SMACKING GAVEL::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::;;;;
BornToVector: tiepoes? what are those
W2PSushi: ouch! my thumb!
origjasstorm: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::POUND POUND POUND:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
origjasstorm: Welcome to Writing To Publish, presenting JoAnn Ross, and Complications vs Conflict
origjasstorm: Want to know how to strengthen your stories and increase the conflict?
origjasstorm: Tonight we welcome JoAnn Ross, and her incredible education and experience to talk about increasing the tension and making your novel stronger through well created conflict
origjasstorm: JoAnn, after writing her first novella about two star-crossed mallard ducks in second grade, got the encouragement she needed for her writing career - a gold star.
origjasstorm: Since then, JoAnn has written ninety-six novels for Harlequin, Silhouette, NAL, St Martin's Press, Mira, Kensington and Pocket Books, and has been published in twenty-six countries.
origjasstorm: A member of the Romance Writers of America's Honor Roll of bestselling authors, she's won many awards, including Romantic Time's Career Achievement Awards in both category and contemporary single title.
origjasstorm: Her upcoming books are IMPULSE, from Pocket Books, in stores 5/23, and Bad Boys Southern Style from Kensington Brava, out 7/1.
origjasstorm: We welcome JoAnn to this chat. And we will be running protocol tonight, so please hold your questions until you're called upon.
origjasstorm: And I turn the floor over to you, JoAnn... If you like, JoAnn, feel free to bold or color your font...
JoAnnRoss: Hi all. I'm happy to be here. First of all, let me say that there aren't many rules in writing and since I don't believe any of us have the single right way to tell a story, you'll find out what works for you through trial and
JoAnnRoss: error. Feel free to ignore almost anything I tell you. On the other hand, I'd be delighted if something I say helps you with your own story. There is one thing that's not a suggestion. It's a law. The Law of Conflict which
JoAnnRoss: states that nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict. Conflict is the soul of your story. It's to storytelling what sound is to music. I'm sure you've all been driving down the road, listening to the radio and
JoAnnRoss: suddenly at the end of a song there's dead air. At first we're confused and curious as to what happened. But after a while we become acutely aware of the ticking of the clock and the passing of time, so even if the radio's silent
JoAnnRoss: for two or three minute, it seems like thirty. In that same way, the music of your story is the conflict. As long as the conflict engages our thoughts and emotions, we'll travel
JoAnnRoss: for hours unaware of the voyage. If you glance at you watch in a movie theater, there's undoubtedly a lull in the conflict happening up on the screen. If the conflict is strong enough to hold our constant attention, we'll be
JoAnnRoss: unaware of the passage of time until the film ends.
JoAnnRoss: Simply stated, a conflict is a struggle between opposing forces. It can also be described as any external or internal pressure that prevents a character from having what he
origjasstorm: JoAnn, could you possibly bold your font, or change colors?
JoAnnRoss: desires, needs or must achieve. As we all learned in High School English, the three basic conflicts are man against man, man against nature, man against himself. And when I say man against nature, I don't -- hah. I just found the
Rose1533: Thank you!
origjasstorm: thanks.. :)
JoAnnRoss: color changer!! Anyway, I don't necessarily mean a conflict like in EArthquake or twister, though something about the environment may trigger an incident that will eventually put the character in conflict. You can create the most
JoAnnRoss: brilliant roller coaster plot ever written, but if the reader isn't hooked emotionally to your main characters, they aren't going to stay very long for the ride.
JoAnnRoss: We need characters whose every action, thought, and line of dialogue is directed toward achieving that goal. Resolving that issue. Readers want to know why the character has those goals in the first place, they want him or her to
JoAnnRoss: be worthy of those goals and they want to watch the characters working hard to achieve them. And they want to be able to root for them to overcome the conflicts.
JoAnnRoss: So we begin with our protagonist. This character has an objective: to win, to solve, to escape, to prove herself, to get rich, seek revenge, justice, redemption, the truth, name
JoAnnRoss: your favorite infinitive.
JoAnnRoss: One of our goals is to lull the reader into suspending disbelief. One of the ways to do this is to give your character a goal that's vastly important to him. This doesn't
JoAnnRoss: have to be a goal the reader shares, but it's a goal that's absolute for the character. This is why readers who'd never commit an act of revenge will accept that behavior in a fictional character who could act no other way under
JoAnnRoss: a particular set of circumstances.
JoAnnRoss: So now that we have a protagonist with a very specific purpose, aim, or goal, it's time for an opposing force to arise. This is where the old saying about opposites attract won't work. In fiction a story must have conflict to be
JoAnnRoss: dramatic. To produce conflict, opposites must collide. Most writers understand the necessity of an antagonist. What many often forget is that the story conflict can't merely originate from the bad guys and his minions.
JoAnnRoss: The next to worst choice any writer can make is to create cliched characters who are all good or all evil. The very worst choice a writer can make is to heap all the conflict on the battle between the protagonist and the antagonist
JoAnnRoss: and have the good guys get along with each other all the way through the book. Where's the conflict in that? One of the strongest aspects of the original Star Trek series was the way Kirk, Spock, and McCoy constantly debated
JoAnnRoss: over right and wrong. With Spock and McCoy acting as either advocate or detractor to Kirk's commands and thoughts as he wrestled with his conscience. At first glance the conflict o an episode might appear to be between the crew a
JoAnnRoss: and the Klingons, but that's too easy. It's the ongoing conflict between Spock's intellect, Kirk's conscience, and McCoy's desire for action that engaged fans and caused those characters to be raised to cult status.
JoAnnRoss: Our antagonist has a goal, too. To block to protagonist. In Little Red Riding Hood, Red's goal is to reach Grandmother's house. The wolf's goal is to eat Red. In Jaws, despite the obvious one of the man trying to kill the shark,
JoAnnRoss: who in turn is trying to eat him, there are all sorts of secondary conflicts swirling around to keep the story from becoming yet another cable fishing show. The serial killing shark with a taste for human flesh is the main
JoAnnRoss: antagonist, but Amnity's small town political machine provides another conflict for Sheriff Brody as they thwart his effort to warn the tourists from danger. And even after Brody hooks up with the nerdy shark
JoAnnRoss: expert -- the intellectual Spock character -- and Hooper, the rough-edged Dr. McCoy action oriented shark hunter, the three of them can't agree on how best to kill Jaws. All of this keeps us rooting for Brody to somehow overcome
JoAnnRoss: all these obstacles and achieve his goals of saving the town and more importantly, his family by killing the shark.
JoAnnRoss: A true conflict is more than a simple roadblock that characters climb over or go around. A good storyteller sets up events that affect the main characters in a way that forces some change in their personalities. They're not the
JoAnnRoss: same people they were at the beginning of the book. Meaningful events change people in meaningful ways. If your characters don't change, your conflicts are mere complications and your characters are static.
JoAnnRoss: There are, of course, two types of conflict -- external and internal. External conflicts, or as I think of them Plot conflicts, arise from outside forces, such as time parameters, weather, professional conflicts, things out of the
JoAnnRoss: character's control. They're situations that the characters are forced into. Situations that form your plot and pull the action through time.
JoAnnRoss: The heroine's running from the bad guys, she's trying to save the family farm, the sheriff is trying to catch a shark that's terrorizing his town, the Enterprise is overrun with Tribbles. It could be a mystery the protagonist has to
JoAnnRoss: solve. Or a birth. Or a death. Whatever external conflict you choose, it should be something that makes this period in your characters
JoAnnRoss: lives -- the time between the first and last page of your book, different from any other time in their lives.
JoAnnRoss: When you think external conflict, it's often helpful to think change. Your character must be in constant danger of losing everything and even during the short respites you're going to give him from the ongoing turmoil, his world
JoAnnRoss: must continue to be out of balance in some way.
JoAnnRoss: Then there's internal conflict. Which is my favorite. Each character carries his or her own internal conflict. It's what they bring to the story. Something that's part of their psyche. They may be unaware of this conflict. It
JoAnnRoss: may be something they're aware of, but have never -- for various reasons unique to them -- confronted. Until your
JoAnnRoss: external conflict forces the internal conflict into the light and it can no longer be ignored.
JoAnnRoss: External conflict forms your plot and keeps your story moving. Internal conflict reflects the theme of your story. Resolving these conflicts is how your characters grow. And a character who doesn't grow in a book is a static
JoAnnRoss: character and no one wants to read about him or her. Here's something to remember. . . without internal conflict, characters have no depth. Without external conflict, you have no plot. When you have several characters with interwoven lives, character conflicts and plot lines which affect each other, you have a story. Just as external conflicts form your plot, internal conflicts provide the subplots.
JoAnnRoss: Along with conflict between characters, inner contradictory conflicts make for more interesting characters.
JoAnnRoss: A contradiction of character occurs when a person is drawn to two opposing or antagonistic desires, values, actions, or relationships at the same time. Since we never know exactly how the character's going to behave, this keeps
JoAnnRoss: the reader turning the pages to see if the conflict will suddenly shift into a different pursuit or change his feelings. Making your character conflicted opens up
JoAnnRoss: opportunities to pivot your plot line in other directions and allows you to reveal your characters a bit at a time.
JoAnnRoss: Solutions of conflict MUST be done with ingenuity and imagination. Your characters must not depend on other people or shifts of circumstances to snatch them from there crises. Another thing to keep in mind is that the goals or
JoAnnRoss: ambitions of your hero and/or heroine must never be fulfilled strictly according to their original intentions. Because, having changed during the course of the book, it only stands to reason that what they might have thought they
JoAnnRoss: wanted more than anything in the world, no longer holds top importance. If you're having trouble with your ending, check your beginning. The beginning of any story should always hold the key to the ending. If the ending doesn't
JoAnnRoss: work, it's probably because your conflict wasn't set up correctly in the beginning pages. And finally, don't worry if your conflict is contrived because fiction, by definition, is contrived. If you make the conflict happen within
JoAnnRoss: the bounds of your characters' own personalities, it'll be believed. And you'll have written a book editors will be clamoring to buy and readers will love. . . Whew! That's it.
origjasstorm: That was wonderful JoAnn...
origjasstorm: Now, we open the floor for questions..
JoAnnRoss: Thanks. I had more, but I can only type so fast. LOL
origjasstorm: Paul, go ahead
W2PSushi: I was just watching a rerun marathon of "Mission Impossible." (The original show)
W2PSushi: they never conflict, nor to the characters develop much
W2PSushi: how would you explain that show's long running success?
JoAnnRoss: My opinion is because there were interesting mysteries going on and it was a very visual show. That was enough to keep people tuning in. It's sort of the same with House, imo. Which I love. But gee, there's just not much growth
W2PSushi: Thanks. (never seen House on TV yet)
JoAnnRoss: there in the guy, is there? I was recently talking with friends and also the Simon and Schuster sales staff and dinner, and with a bunch of editors on a recent cruise, and we decided that character would NEVER work in a book. The
JoAnnRoss: actor pulls it off and keeps viewers interested. Unfortunately, we don't have that going for us.
W2PSushi: yes indeed
origjasstorm: I have a question, JoAnn... What kind of work or research do you put in before you start your books to determine conflict?
JoAnnRoss: The conflict, for me, always comes from the characters. (The internal anyway.) For BLAZE, I read about 25 books on fire fighting and arson investigation. As I started learning what that job was, I started getting a handle on the characters and their conflicts. Also, I always have to be inside the skin of all my characters -- I'm sort of a method writer <g>, so I have to know everything they might need to know.
JoAnnRoss: Oh, I also talk with experts, which helps. GA
MoonCat25: Concerning internal conflicts, how many would be too many? I know in real life a person can be overwhelmed by inner moppets, can a good character as well?
JoAnnRoss: I think that's a good point. If your character has too many internal conflicts readers can just want to throw up their hands in despair. Or get tired of hearing about them. OTOH, if the character keeps bemoaning one or two things,
JoAnnRoss: that can bet boring really fast and it's where we, as readers, what to shout GET OVER IT ALREADY! Balance is the key, and it'll be different with every story and every set of characters. GA
PHeeren: I talked to my fellow Children's Writers last thursday evening about the possibility of having my two Czech children who were born to a British woman go to the gas chambers but it will scare off children, well, what do you think, jo
JoAnnRoss: Is this a children's book? What age?
PHeeren: ann? I am contemplating writing a young adult novel set in Great War ga
PHeeren: and a full stage play
PHeeren: it's an epic play, u know
JoAnnRoss: Okay, here's where I admit I know nothing about YA. It sounds awfully dark to me, but it's all in the execution, isn't it? And I don't mean like killing execution.
PHeeren: in holocaust, joann
JoAnnRoss: What did your writers' group think, btw?
PHeeren: they said to eliminate the gas chambers for children's sake
Mallie1025: How do you know if you actually have too much conflict? Or is that impossible?
Mallie1025: Mooncat beat me to this question which I think you answered
JoAnnRoss: Yes, it's always good to keep your conflict to one or maybe two main points because otherwise your story gets diluted.
JoAnnRoss: You can have parallel stories with seemingly different conflicts, but then they'll merge and it'll become one main one.
Mallie1025: thanks ga
JoAnnRoss: You're welcome. :-)
origjasstorm: Okay, do we have any more questions so far?
origjasstorm: Go ahead Mooncat..
MoonCat25: would it be an overload to have your villain with conflicts as well as your hero and heroine?
JoAnnRoss: Oh, no! I love villains with conflicts. They're ever so much more interesting!
origjasstorm: Mallie, go ahead with your question
origjasstorm: And this one will be the last question...
MoonCat25: don't worry Joann, typical Monday typing dilemma
Mallie1025: Is it ever okay to have a conflict that cannot be resolved?
JoAnnRoss: I can't see why you'd want that, unless you were leaving it open ended. However, having said that, I just watched Ryan's Daughter and they sure didn't give us a real ending. Of course critics savaged it, too, so maybe that's not
JoAnnRoss: a good idea. <g> Was there a particular reason you don't want to
JoAnnRoss: Oh, I meant open-ended for a sequel.
Mallie1025: I see--although I do like writing open-ended--don't like reading them lol Ga
JoAnnRoss: Ah, maybe you belong writing literary fiction. LOL
Mallie1025: In paranormal sometimes an open ending is good
Mallie1025: And in horror--I left a pubbed story open-ended-worked well
JoAnnRoss: Okay. I'll buy that. It's like the demon or serial killer escaping. But you sure better resolve the interpersonal relationships between the main characters.
Mallie1025: yes exactly thanks again
origjasstorm: Okay, all I think we'll wrap this up.
origjasstorm: I want to thank JoAnn for coming tonight, it's been a wonderful chat, and we appreciate your doing this.. (is that proper grammar??? -- Im getting tired over here. ;) )
MoonCat25: Joann it's been great!!! Thank you!!!
W2PSushi: I will send around the Log tomorrow, and post it on our web site also
W2PSushi: Thanks, JoAnn
Soulofpanther1: Thank you JoAnn
JoAnnRoss: It was fun. Thanks for inviting me. Oh, can I tell people to go watch the video book trailers at my website? They are so cool!
W2PSushi: even as you spoke, I got some ideas to 'punch up' a dragging chapter or two
PHeeren: thanks joann
Mallie1025: Thanks for some great insights into conflict, Jo
origjasstorm: And I wanted to say once more, JoAnn's upcoming books are IMPULSE, from Pocket Books, in stores 5/23 and Bad Boys Southern Style from Kensington Brava, out 7/1.
JoAnnRoss: Oh, I love the idea of giving you some punching up ideas. That is a really nice thing to end with. Thanks!
W2PSushi: I made a note
origjasstorm: She's a wonderful writer, her web site is www.joannross.com
origjasstorm: JoAnn, you really were great, thank you so much for coming.
W2PSushi: my SF novel stars a girl who is, by that point, about ten
W2PSushi: far from Romance but hey they are people too
JoAnnRoss: Thanks again. As I said, it was fun. I love talking about writing almost as much as I love doing it. <g>
W2PSushi: (no aliens in this one!) ;-)
origjasstorm: I found myself thinking through my own novel as you talked about conflict, and how to add to the story.
origjasstorm: That's impressive Paul. ;)
JoAnnRoss: Well, I guess I'd better go take my doggies out again. This time on a leash, in case that pesky opossum is still hanging around. 'Nite all!
origjasstorm: Night, JoAnn...
Mallie1025: Night Joann and night to all
Pattyapplet: night JoAnn!
origjasstorm: Yep, I'm calling it a night as well.... Getting tired over here.
PHeeren: well, I'd better go now
PHeeren: night all
MoonCat25: nite all
W2PSushi: thanks, all and good night
5/15/06 8:08:56 PM Closing "Chat Log 5/15/06"
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