A writing post

I haven’t talked about writing much lately. I think it’s been because I’ve been stewing about a scene. It’s still stewing, but I had some thoughts today. I was reading from Don Maass’ 20th Century Fiction. There’s some really good stuff in there and some stuff that probably won’t work for me, but it definitely has inspires me to think in some different directions. Some things are pretty obvious and makes me smack my head and think, what kind of mental reject am I?

Specifically, I was reading a passage where he was talking about how your main character should have two competing desires that collide at some point. The desires have to be mutually exclusive–if one wins out, the other fails. A for instance would be Aragorn in the LOTR (cuz I just watched it again). He doesn’t want to be king. He wants to keep his life as is and not take on the responsibility of a nation and a people and he doesn’t want to let his potential failings as a king over run him (thinking of Isildur). At the same time, he wants Sauron to be defeated. The trouble is, if he get his way on one, the other can’t be. He pushes off the decision as long as he can. But eventually, he has to decide and gather the ghost army. The point is, he is driven by both desires, and eventually they collide. It gives him an inner conflict that gives rise to most all of his actions, what he says, and what he doesn’t do.

Reading this reminder of inner conflict made me rethink the current character I’m writing. He’s got an inner conflict, but I haven’t spent much time thinking that through or articulating it to myself. I need to, so that I can strengthen his actions and his story line. I can make him more vivid. I also have to think this question of inner conflict for my other major and minor characters. Particularly the minor characters to make them more full and round. It means some work in terms of just stopping and going over my characters again. I thought I articulated a lot of their issues, but this is another way for me to think about them. I think it will strengthen the story.

What are some of your favorite characters with competing inner desires? Are they resolved in a satisfactory way? Are they heroes or villains?


  • Douglas Meeks

    I just wanted to take this time to whine about all the people I got hooked on Horngate Witches and now they blame me for the series ending suddenly 🙂 I, being a Southern gentleman, try to throw you under the bus to no avail 🙂 Tell me you are gonna figure out a way to help me out (yes I have no shame).

    In a more topical comment, I just read what may be one of the most unforgettable books I have read in years called The Night Man Commeth it covers the life of a vampire over 3500 years. amazing stuff.

  • cedunkley

    I’d have to go with Thomas Covenant as a great example of competing inner desires. That guy is loaded with them! And since Donaldson is not yet finished with the Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I won’t know how it all finishes playing out. So far, through 6 books Covenant makes great strides, which end up only raising the stakes for how much he desires.

    (Was going to reply on your LJ but it comes up as not allowing replied from those not in your friend list.)

    • Di Francis

      You know, I never could get into those books. Which is kind of weird, but I loved the Elric books and both are anti-heroes.

      Dammit. yeah, the LJ thing I had to adjust because of godawful levels of spam. I’ll go add you and you’ll be safe.

  • cedunkley

    Elric! I really have to reread those, it’s been a while. Love those books. And Robert Gould’s cover art!

    Thanks for this post. I really need to take a look at my own characters in this light. And thanks for the LJ add.

    • Douglas Meeks

      “Elric!” – the first really conflicted character I can remember reading about (or at least the first one well written) , I also have about 4 of the collected works forever in my Amazon Wishlist that I want to get and reread one day. I may not ever do it but that character remains one of my memories of years (decades?) of fantasy reading. I can’t recall another character like him.

      As for Thomas Covernant, I read them all and when I finished I was still not sure if I had not wasted a lot of time. While they may be considered masterpiece level stuff, they left the reader unfulfilled IMHO.

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