WTW – Importance of Conflict

I saw a tweet thread from Dong Won (“literary agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.” – source: his twitter bio.) that caught my eye, made me think, and since I’m weird and curate my twitter likes as if they were faberge eggs, actually made me ‘like’ the post. The whole thing is worth your time, but here’s two that stood out:

First tweet first: I completely didn’t get this when I first started writing. I tried to put cool thing next to cool thing and then, I figured, presto-chango we’d have a story. Not so! What I ended up with were a series of kinda neat vignettes that had no cohesion, no reason for connecting, and no structure that guided the narrative into some kind of purpose.

As much as one might want to delve into their inner “artist” and eschew traditional narrative structures (e.g. Hollywood Structure), they exist for a reason. Understanding how the events shown on the page connect, lead into one another, and provide arcs for character struggle, failure, change, growth, resolution can be critical to turning that series of cool stuff into a story. I’m not saying you can’t break those structures, but it makes sense to understand why stories coalesce into repeatable structures before going rogue and embracing the nontraditional.

Yes, I’m aware I just spent lots of words to say “know the rules before you break ’em.”

As for the second tweet, it’s really driving home the fact that readers typically connect with characters first. The characters are the vessels through which we experience the story and all of the emotional beats that are a part of that story. Story about loss? Experienced through the loss of the *character*. Story about victory? Same deal: character.

Dong Won crystallized that (in tweet form) in a way that ought to stand out to writers in particular (he is an editor, so writers are probably his intended audience here): He’s looking for character and that character’s conflict in page one. If he doesn’t find it, he’ll look for it in another manuscript.

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