Storylines: Using Character Mash-ups to Create Conflict

Writers are often asked: “Where do you get your ideas?” While many of my own novel story lines arise from a single character popping up and then telling me the story, many published novelists don’t have time for such a long process. To create a story line I also sometimes use what I call “Character Mash-ups” to answer that “what if?” question.
Writing Tip for Today: Just for fun, try this formula method of creating a story:

  • Think of a male or female character and give that character an occupation, activity or goal. This character is the viewpoint and protagonist. EX: A woman teacher who’s burned out.
  • Think of the person most likely to be opposing that first character and give this character an opposing job, activity or goal. EX: A student who has great potential but who is homeless.
  • Assign a setting and a time period. EX: Contemporary, USA.
  • Here’s the fun part. Now imagine these two opposing forces meeting and clashing. Kind of like plate tectonics, one force (we hope the protagonist) must override the other eventually. What happens when push comes to shove (otherwise known as the climax scene)? EX: A burned out teacher reignites her passion for education after a homeless student challenges authority.
  • Now all you have to do is write in the direction of that climax, by letting your protag lose a lot, gradually gaining strength and resolve. It’s not exactly easy, but it will create a classic story arc. Have fun with it–you may come up with a great idea!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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