Using conflict story beats for maximum impact - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
April 17, 2024

In a recent First Draft Friday, I was joined by author Becca Puglisi to discuss the multifaceted nature of conflict and its impact on character development. Becca Puglisi is the co-author of the Writers Helping Writing Thesaurus collection.

Here are some key takeaways from my conversation with Becca:

  1. Understanding conflict: Conflict is what stands in a character’s way of achieving his or her goals. Whether it’s an external obstacle or an internal struggle, conflict drives the narrative forward by creating tension and pushing characters to evolve.
  2. Variety is key: To keep a story engaging, it’s crucial to introduce different types and levels of conflict in every scene. These conflicts can range from major plot points to minor setbacks, each serving to challenge the protagonist and heighten the stakes.
  3. Conflict and character arcs: Conflict plays a pivotal role in shaping character development. As characters navigate through challenges, they’re forced to make choices that propel their growth and lead to self-discovery. Internal conflicts, in particular, highlight the emotional journey of characters as they confront their flaws and fears.
  4. Every scene needs conflict: Conflict shouldn’t be reserved for pivotal moments alone; it should be present in every scene, driving the narrative forward and keeping readers engaged. Even in seemingly tranquil scenes, conflicts can arise from misunderstandings, internal struggles, or opposing desires.
  5. Tailoring conflict to genre: While the intensity and nature of conflict may vary across genres, all stories benefit from well-crafted conflicts that resonate with the characters and plot. Thrillers may feature high-stakes conflicts, while romances may focus on interpersonal tensions, but ultimately, conflict serves to deepen the narrative regardless of genre.
  6. Balancing positive outcomes: Even in stories with happy endings, conflicts persist until the resolution. Characters may experience setbacks and challenges, but it’s the journey toward growth and fulfillment that drives the narrative. Each conflict, whether resolved or not, contributes to the overall arc of the story.
  7. Showing the villain’s internal conflict: Portraying a villain’s internal conflict without delving into his or her point of view can be challenging but not impossible. Through subtext and character interactions, authors can reveal glimpses of the villain’s moral ambiguity, wavering convictions, and inner turmoil, adding depth to their portrayal.

It was a great discussion, one you won’t want to miss! Click below to watch our 30-minute recording and hear the questions we answered from the live audience. Keep scrolling if you’d prefer to read the transcript.

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Alessandra: Hello, everyone. And welcome to First Draft Friday. I am joined today by Becca Puglisi and we are going to be talking all about conflict. So get excited, this will be a half hour of action-packed conversation. Don’t be shy. If you’re joining us live, please shout out in the comment section if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube and bring your questions, because we’ll be answering them as we go. So welcome, Becca. It’s fantastic to have you on First Draft Friday. Can you tell the audience just a little bit about yourself?

Becca: Sure. My name’s Becca Puglisi and I write books with my co-author Angela Ackerman. We have a set of descriptive thesaurus that we have written that cover different areas of descriptive writing. So we have one on emotions, one on character traits, one on settings. Our latest is on conflict and different scenarios and how you can utilize them to their fullest effect in your story. So, that’s what we do. We speak to people and just, you know, basically we just get together with other writers and talk about writing stuff and that we get paid for it. So it’s awesome.

Alessandra: Best job in the world and if you haven’t experienced one of her sources before, can you show The Conflict Thesaurus, just so they’ll recognize – it’s a very recognizable cover, so I think that will…

Becca: This is the latest.

Alessandra: That’s the latest.

Becca: And they all look kind of like that. They’re all different colors. We’re running out of colors. It’s always a big decision when it’s time to pick a new color. We’re like, oh gosh, but that’s the latest one.

Alessandra: Absolutely. So okay, talking about conflict, I know you and I in our kind of pre-chat I was like, you know, I don’t think I really know what conflict is. I know how to use it. I mean, I think I use it instinctively, but a lot of, especially new authors won’t yet know how to use conflict, you know, intuitively. So, can you kind of give us a definition of conflict and its role in a story?

Becca: Yes. So conflict is basically what is standing in your character’s way of achieving what they want. Every character has an outer motivation. They have a story goal that they are trying to achieve by the end of the story. And there’s something that’s standing in their way. And there’s always going to be like a main thing, you know, an antagonist or a villain, an idea that is blocking them that has to be overcome. But we know that for a story to work, there has to be conflict in every scene. So you have to over the course of a story, we have a lot of different kinds of conflict to mix it up so you’re not always using the same kind of repeated conflict over and over. And different kinds of conflict, different levels of conflict are going to really amp up your story and keep everything interesting because you’re using a variety, and they allow you to increase what’s happening, the severity of what’s happening, to increase the stakes, which we know has to happen a lot throughout a story kind of to keep the pace up from start to finish. So that’s kind of the role that it plays in a story level is to add tension, to make the job really difficult for the protagonist. And it also plays a really important role in character arc, which I had not really thought much about until we started looking into writing this book.

But we realized that if a character’s undergoing a change arc where they have to learn something and they have to grow throughout the course of the story if they’re going to achieve their goal; then we have to get them to certain… at certain places in the story, they have to make progress. They have to move forward, they have to move backward and kind of navigate that whole arc and the best way to do that is with conflict. Because when you introduce conflict for a character, it creates a choice for them. They have, you know, to do one thing or another. And very often they don’t have a lot of time. They have to kind of do it quickly, which creates more conflict very often, but it gives you an opportunity to help them make choices that are going to navigate them and move them along that character arc and eventually get them to the point of recognition of, “Oh, shoot, I have this problem, this flaw that I thought was, you know, perfectly fine. Maybe I thought it was actually a strength of mine because it was protecting me. It was helping me. And now I realize it’s been holding me back and now I have to overcome it.”

And so, it’s really interesting that conflict kind of – it works on both of those levels throughout the story and tandem. So, a super important part of storytelling that we don’t really talk a whole lot about. We all need it, we all use it, but we don’t talk about it a whole lot.

Alessandra: Something you just said freaked me out as an author, which is, I always think about it in terms of the story, like what is the conflict in your story? Well, there’s a bad guy and there’s a good guy and you know, the bad guy is trying to catch the good guy. But when you said like it needs to be in every scene, I was like, whoa, like what? That seems like a tall order. So, can you explain like if… I mean, do you really mean every scene? Like if there’s a romantic scene, is there a conflict there? Can you give us some examples of maybe conflicts in smaller or in different types of scenes?

Becca: Sure. So at the scene level, a scene should be a shrunken-down version of the story structure. You know, you have a scene structure that is really a match for the overall structure of the story and that your character comes into a scene and they have a goal for that scene too. And it’s very often leading them toward that outer goal or the inner goal. You know, if they are, again, going through a change arc where they have to make a significant internal change. In each scene, they’re going to be moving towards one of those two things. And so they have a scene goal. And so in a romance, maybe the scene goal is to ask somebody out or to get a date with somebody, and so that’s the scene goal. While, if we give them what they want in the scene, it’s going to get boring after a while because there’s nothing like standing in their way. There’s no obstacle and everything’s wonderful and it’s going along well.

And while we like that in real life, it’s the kiss of death for our stories. So in every scene, you have to know what your character is going towards, and then you have to block them in some way. And it can be like a major blocker. I mean, it can be, you know, a fist fight or an explosion or a disaster of some kind, but most of the time it’s going to be minor things. It’s going to be, you know, the person that the character is trying to ask out; somebody asks them out right before they do – or even as they’re walking up to them, they see it happening before their eyes. Or it’s an internal conflict of, you know, I really want to do this, and I know that it’s what I want but I’m so scared because X happened to me in the past and I don’t want that to happen again. Or because I’m doubting myself because, you know, I have these ideas about who I am and maybe I’m not good enough.

You know, it can be lots of different kinds of conflict and it doesn’t have to be enormous; a lot of times it’s, it’s the kind of small everyday ones that create that block. And so then you get to the end of the scene, and the character may have been successful. They may have worked through it or it may not have worked out. And then they move into the next scene and they have a different goal and they have a different conflict that is going to stand in the way of that goal, so that’s kind of how it works.

Alessandra: Yeah, that makes sense. And if you guys have any questions as you’re watching, don’t be shy, shout them out here. I’ve used The Emotion Thesaurus, so I understand… There you give an emotion and then you give, you know, ways that you can convey that emotion without saying “I am mad.” So, how does The Conflict Thesaurus work? How is it laid out?

Becca: Yeah, so we have different fields that kind of explore different… Well, first of all, we have conflicts that are broken into different categories. So, we have relationship friction, failures and mistakes, moral dilemmas, increased pressure and ticking clocks. So they’re broken into categories and then each one just explores that conflict scenario a little bit more from a storytelling standpoint, to help you figure out how you might use it to benefit your story, or if it’s even a good fit for your story. So, we have a love interest taking up with someone else. That’s one of the conflict scenarios. We have a lot of examples there to give you ideas of what that might look like in your story. And that’s kind of a brainstorming tool to kind of get your brain moving and thinking about, oh, this really could be useful for me in whatever the character’s goal is. And then there are minor complications, which are just the annoying kind of inconvenient things.

Alessandra: Like the traffic, things on the way to work that makes you late to an interview.

Becca: Right. Can then, you know, lead to other problems. But then we also have potentially disastrous results. Like somebody – the character confronting the love interest or their new flame in a fit of jealous rage. You know, it’s kind of the bigger reactions; the more extreme ones that then can have even bigger consequences and cause even more problems. We have the emotions that result out of it. So you have a pretty clear idea of what your character’s going to be feeling, and so you know kind of how you have to write them in that scene. Internal struggles, negative traits that the character might have that can make the situation worse. And this is really good because it ties into characterization. So instead of just picking a conflict at random; you can pick the ones that are really going to be hard for your specific character because they are bent a certain way. And so, this particular thing is really going to have ramifications for them and probably cause them to have bigger responses than, you know, the average person.

Positive outcomes, you know, because not everything is going to end badly. Sometimes you’re going to have a good response. And that’s kind of, again, that character arc process is the character has to move forward. They can’t continually be, you know, blocked and kept back. They do have to have successes. So, we try to look at it and at each conflict scenario, again, from a storytelling standpoint, so that you can kind of, you know, if you’re looking for ideas or maybe you know it has to be a work-related conflict because the scene is happening at work. You know, you can look at those kinds of conflicts and, and just see which ones might fit your scene and which ones make sense for your character. Because again, that’s what we’re always trying to do is make sure that what we’re offering is tying into each individual person’s character and story. I mean, they’re kind of universal things, emotions, traits, emotional wounds, things like that, but we always want to make them personal to the character and to the story in order to make, you know, to end up creating a really unique story that’s going to resonate with people.

Alessandra: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So what are, and I’m going to put you on the spot with this, but are there common mistakes that you see authors making when they’re trying to use, can you have too much conflict or do you need to vary your conflict into smaller and bigger things? Or are there any kind of dos and don’ts that authors should think about when they’re using conflict?

Becca: Sure. I think one of the biggest mistakes is that conflict has to be big and like explosive. And I think that that’s kind of, you know, our initial go-to because we know that we want to write something dramatic and of course, nothing is more dramatic than a car crash or a foot chase or a fist fight or whatever. But in reality, how often do those things happen to people? So we want to make sure that we are using conflicts that are realistic, again, for the story. And we want to make sure that we are varying the level and intensity of the conflict, because if you constantly have these big, enormous scenarios, eventually it kind of numbs the character and they kind of get used to it and it loses its impact. So definitely the biggest problem I think is people don’t vary that intensity. And we want to make sure that we’re including different intensities of conflict, but also different kinds. You know, if every single conflict that your character encounters is happening at work, it’s again going to start to fall a little flat.

So we need to think about, okay, how is the conflict going to be impacting their personal relationships? How is it going to impact their ego? How is it going to impact their regular duties and responsibilities and kind of add that sense of stress and tension that we’re looking for, because that’s really what conflict is about. It’s about creating tension between the characters, but also for the reader, because the reader has tension when they don’t know what’s going to happen. When it looks like things are not going to be going well and they’re worried about that. And they, you know, so then they start to worry and they start to care about the character and then they want to keep reading to make sure that the character’s okay. So those are the two of the big ones I think, is the intensity and then the kind of conflict. And then, again, just having to have meaningful conflict in every scene.

I think we tend to think as authors, in terms of the big moments, we know that there are those big structural moments, you know, where things have to happen, but every single scene, it has to have conflict. I know in Save The Cat, Blake Snyder uses a plan for planning out your scenes and making sure they have all of the components that they need. And one of the things that he mentions is that each scene should have an emotional change of some kind. So your character should come into the scene feeling one way and when they leave, they should be feeling something different or they should have experienced a change in the middle of the scene, because if there’s no emotional change, then what’s really happening that has impacted the character, and why should the reader care? So, one of the best ways to create that emotional changes with conflict, because conflict is tied to emotion. I mean, whenever we experience conflict ourselves, we experience emotion, and so the same thing is going to happen for the character. And then the reader is going to pick up on the emotions and share their emotional experience. And so, again, very important that it’s happening frequently throughout the story.

Alessandra: When you were describing conflict, I think in itself, the word conflict makes me think of an argument, right? Or like when I think of the word conflict, I think, you know, a collision of two things. But it sounds like conflict could also be like friction between two characters that a reader is trying to figure out why or a mystery that the reader is trying to figure out. Does it come in many forms, and can you break down some of those forms? I guess I’m still stuck on like a love scene. Like if you have a lovemaking scene, we don’t need conflict there, do we? Or does conflict come out in a different way?

Becca: I would say that a love-making scene, the whole scene is not usually about that event. There are other things happening, usually that lead up to it, or there are things that happen just after it. And again, it can be very small. It can be a misunderstanding. You know, when people are communicating and they’re not communicating well, and one person assumes one thing and the other person is expecting something else. And then all of a sudden someone is confused or they’re uncertain or they are now doubting what was a really great experience. And now they’re wondering, “Oh shoot, maybe there’s a problem.” So it’s even those little things that are going on inside the character. And I think internal conflict is hugely powerful because it happens all the time in real life.

We constantly are evaluating and analyzing what’s happening around us. And making assumptions, misunderstandings, misconstruing things, not communicating clearly all of those little things lead to conflict. So even in a scene where something really happy is happening, there are very often going to be other things that are happening during that part or before and after it that can add to the conflict. I think the important part to remember is to know what your character wants in every scene. What are they hoping to achieve? Sometimes it’s something as simple as getting information. You know, they’re going to be initiating a conversation with someone so that they can find something out. Maybe, you know, something that they have an idea already of what it is, or they have no idea and they’re trying to figure it out. And then in that conversation, there’s going to be conflict because maybe the other person, they don’t want to share what they know. So now you have opposing desires, opposing goals, two people who are trying to get the opposite thing, but they can’t both get it.

So, that’s kind of what I mean, when I’m saying that in your scene there should be conflict that is blocking the character in some way, and it doesn’t have to keep them from achieving their goal. It just has to make it difficult, you know, and they’re going to have to work harder, think quicker, work around, come up with a secondary solution, find a new ally or advantage that is going to help them kind of get whatever it is that they want.

Alessandra: That makes sense. And Mel has a great question. He’s joining us on Facebook. He said, “Does the intensity of the conflict vary by genre? For example, should thrillers have more intense conflict scenes while romance might have smaller conflicts with more good outcomes?”

Becca: Yeah, I think that you’re definitely going to have certain kinds of conflicts more often in certain kinds of stories. Thrillers are going to have more of the dramatic, big – what do you call it – where it’s impacting a lot of people kinds of conflicts. You look at something that’s fairly quiet, like Where The Crawdads Sing. You’re not having those kinds of things, even though there is a murder in that story. Most of what’s happening in the story is not like that scene. It’s quiet, but there is so much conflict in that story because it’s about her conflict with society, with her not fitting in with other people, misunderstanding her and thinking certain things about her. So, the kind of story that you’re writing is going to dictate to a certain degree the kinds of conflict that you include. What I would say should be the same or very similar is any story that has a protagonist working a change arc meaning they’re experiencing some kind of internal change throughout the course of the story. You have to have internal conflict because they have to struggle internally with what their problem is, and eventually recognize it as a problem and learn to deal with it. And all of that, you know, has to be happening inside to a certain degree. So, that kind of conflict you’re going to find no matter what the genre, as long as your protagonist is working a change arc.

And we do have stories where that doesn’t happen where the character is on a flat arc. Where the story is not so much about their internal growth as it is about them achieving the goal like Indiana Jones and Laura Craft and those kinds of stories. But anything where your character is working a change arc, they’re going to have to have that same – the internal conflict is going to be consistent across all of those genres. Different kinds of conflict, but still they’re going to have to have some internal conflict as well.

Alessandra: And another question from YouTube, from Somker, do you think bad language is necessary in conflict?

Becca: I don’t think so. I mean, I think that it depends again on the kind of story you’re writing and it depends on your character. I mean, if you’re dealing with somebody who is going to be using that kind of language, especially if they’re elevated, then that kind of language would make sense in that kind of story. If your character wouldn’t use that language, then it would feel very forced to include it. And that’s again, where we always go back to emotion because our first book was the Emotion Thesaurus, but emotion is key to believability and authenticity for our characters. So knowing your character, hopefully, ideally, before you start writing, figuring out what their emotional baseline is, like, are they demonstrative or reserved; where do they fall on that spectrum, just in general? That one question is going to give you a good idea of their responses and how they respond when conflict does arise.

If they’re more of a demonstrative person, they’re going to have bigger responses to the things that happen. And that just gives you an idea of, okay, what kind of conflict do I need to throw at my character to get this particular response? You know, if they’re not one that has big responses, then you’re going to have to hit them a little bit harder than you would somebody who is, you know, always going to kind of respond in an overblown way. So knowing your character is huge. Knowing their personality, their emotions, their triggers, all of those things are going to play into how they respond when conflict comes up. The kind of language they use, whether they’re fight, flight or freeze kind of people, all of that is going to factor into how they respond to conflict. It’s all about the character.

Alessandra: And I think that’s a really great point. One thing I learned from a writing coach named Tex Thompson is she was saying one of the greatest ways to really get your reader invested in the story and in the character is to have that character, especially when you’re introducing them, respond to conflict in a way that you wouldn’t expect. She didn’t use the word conflict. So it doesn’t fit every character because most of us are ordinary people who respond in ordinary ways. But if you do, you know, like if the character receives news that her mother died in a scene and she says, “Oh,” she hangs up the phone and then she smiles. Like, that’s a reaction that you’re immediately like, “Whoa, like what is going on?” And why is this reaction so different from the fake reaction, apparently fake reaction that you just had? And so, I love what you just said, because seeing, like you said, how your characters respond to conflict and making sure that that fits their character personality and their character are can be just as telling as the conflict itself.

Becca: Yep. Hugely important.

Alessandra: David from YouTube said, can you talk about conflict in the setting of a physical fight or altercation?

Becca: Yeah, this is a little bit tricky for me because I don’t write these kinds of stories where this is happening a lot. But a lot of time… I mean those kinds of situations, the physical fight is the conflict. I mean, it is a physical manifestation, you know, of two people who want different things, unable to work it out in a reasonable manner. And this is how they are both trying to get what they want, by beating the other person literally. So in that situation, that is the conflict and you just have to hone your fist fight action scene skills. You know, I mean, and there’s lots of blogs out there that talk a lot about how to write a good fight scene, how to write a good action scene, how to write people who know how to throw a punch correctly.

I mean, you can really get into the nitty gritty of that to write those scenes really well. But I would say that in those scenes, that is the conflict. I think in a story where that’s going to happen, you probably are going to have a character who is going to find himself in confrontational situations very often. So, a lot of times that character’s conflict is going to be with other people. You know, I think about Jack Reacher. You know, has no problem getting in people’s faces and being very honest and calling people out. Well, because he knows he is going to win any fist fight that he gets into. I mean, that’s easy, but that’s, again, the kind of thing in that particular scene, that is the conflict. And so, you don’t really have to overthink that one too much. You just have to have a good reason for them getting to that point, make it realistic, the lead up to it and write the scene as well as you can in terms of physically what’s happening.

Alessandra: And lead up to it, I think that’s another thing. Yeah, making sure that you’ve achieved that build-up so that it’s satisfying. Jade said, how do you find the perfect result in the end of the conflict? I don’t really understand this question, but I don’t know a lot about conflict. Does that make sense – does that question?

Becca: It sounds like Jade is asking how do you know how the conflict should end for your story? Is that correct? Because you know, you have conflict and it really does have a wide range of outcomes. And this kind of depends on you as an author and your process. If you’re a planner like I am, then you’ve planned out your story and you know, okay, in this scene, this is happening. I’m trying to get them to this point over here, which is in the next scene. And so, I know how the conflict is going to end because they have to get to this point. And so I’m going to input a conflict that is going to give them a choice, and I know what choice they’re going to make, because I know where they’re headed. For people who are more pantsers where they don’t want to do all of that planning, you know, I think that all of that kind of comes in the end. You write your story, you let the characters lead you where the characters want to go. And then at the end of the story, you look at the whole thing and you see, oh shoot, you know, this didn’t happen the way that it needs to happen for this next thing to happen in this story.

I think that kind of helps dictate what the end result of the conflict is going to be. Do you want more conflict? Do you want them to dig themselves deeper into a hole? Or is this a moment where they need to grow and they need to evolve and so they need to have a revelation? They need to come to some kind of a realization, and they need to maybe take a step in the positive direction. So, I think that it depends on you as the author and how you like to work, but also, it depends on the story structure, you know, on what should be happening, where they need to go, and that will help you determine how the conflict should turn out.

Alessandra: Yeah. I guess that’s where I’m getting stuck. How do we move towards a positive outcome? And how do we start tying up the loose ends and giving that satisfying, happy conclusion (if your story has a happy ending) while still maintaining conflict in every scene? That’s where I’m getting a little stuck. So, can you have positive conflict? Is there conflict while you are moving toward the resolution, I guess?

Becca: Sure. I do think that you have… there’s a flow, especially, I’m thinking in terms of character arc and when there’s an interchange that’s driving the character story. I’m thinking of the story of A Few Good Men, okay. This is like an excellent example of story structure if you need to look at it and break it apart. But you’ve got this character who’s lived in the shadow of his father, his insanely popular and successful father, his whole life. He wants to be a lawyer too, but he is too afraid because he thinks he can never measure up to his father’s reputation. So, he plea bargains all of his cases. He never wants to enter a courtroom and that’s kind of his hangup at the start of the story, but then he’s handed this case, this murder case. And he has to try the case in a way that is going to keep his clients out of jail. But he’s been purposely given this case because it’s political and the people don’t want it going to trial. They want him to plea bargain out.

Alessandra: They want him to get rid of it as he always does.

Becca: Right. So he’s on this journey throughout the story of accepting who he really is and living to his fullest potential, which he has never done. And so, he gets opportunity after opportunity and it comes in many different forms throughout the story for him to choose, okay, do I move forward? Do I take the big risk? Do I do what a really good strong lawyer would do? or do I fall back to my comfort zone and what I’m comfortable with? And so even after he has had some light bulb moments and is moving in the right direction, things happen that give him another choice where he can still move forward, but sometimes he chooses no. You know, I mean, like when the main witness killed himself so that he didn’t have to testify, what did he do? He didn’t move forward initially with, you know, okay, I’m going to go after Colonel Jessup. He said, you know, I’m going to go get drunk and I’m just going to throw in the towel. I’m not going to do the one thing that’s really, really, really hard and is very risky.

So even as they’re moving forward, they’re given opportunities and sometimes they fall backward. And at the midpoint moment, you know, the midpoint of the story where they kind of get that, “Wow. Oh, okay. I see what’s wrong and I have to make changes, and I’m going to move in the right direction.” And they start moving in the right direction, but something happens and everything kind of falls apart. And that’s that dark night of the soul moment where they have to finally say, “Okay, I know what the right thing to do. I don’t care how bad things are. I am going to move forward. I’m going to take a big risk. I’m just going to go for it.”

And so yes, as they’re moving and they’re having successes, they’re going to have problems too. And especially, I mean, in that story, you see, it’s not just courtroom conflicts, it’s conflicts with his co-counsel, who’s pushing him to do the right thing because she’s so frustrated that he’s like, “You know, what are you doing? Stop living this way, we have to – this is what’s right and we have to do this.” So it’s again, coming at him from different people, different situations on different levels, all pushing him in the right direction.

Alessandra: I love that. I want to explore that story again. We are out of time, everyone. We do have two questions and I don’t know if you’re able to answer them quickly, but the first one says good writers often do not resolve all aspects of a conflict. How does a writer achieve that without frustrating the reader? Is that anything you have wisdom on?

Becca: Yeah, it’s true. The characters don’t always completely overcome everything. Very often, they learn how to manage. An emotional wound that has been festering and growing and wrecking all kinds of havoc; they’re not going to be able to just turn it off by the end of the story., “Oh, this isn’t a problem for me anymore.” So they’re still going to have issues, but they are going to be able to manage and they’re going to be able to move forward into fulfillment. They’re not going to let it hold them back and limit them anymore. So, that’s kind of – I’m not sure if that’s exactly what’s being asked. But as long as the reader gets that sense of, okay, the character is moving in the right direction, they are making progress, they are growing and that they’re able to overcome enough to achieve the story goal; that’s what is satisfying and is going to keep them feeling happy at the end of the story. If that’s what you want, of course.

Alessandra: And I think my take on that is just to give the reader little presents as you go. Like, if you are making the reader really work for this, just give them little moments, you know, where something goes right. Are they able to overcome some conflicts? And then the last question is do you have any tips to show a villain’s internal conflict without writing from their point of view?

Becca: This is so, so hard. Angela and I were just talking the other day because we were trying to find a villain that we could profile all of the different aspects of their character arc, and it was so, so hard to come up with one because you just don’t see them in that depth. So, it’s very hard to do if you’re not writing from their point of view. That is the first thing that I would say. So, if you can give them some air time, then you’re going to be able to see their internal processes and where they’re struggling internally. If you can’t, then I think it all comes down to showing. It’s really showing subtext. It’s okay, here’s what the villain is saying. And here’s what they believe and here’s kind of their twisted, moral code that they’re living by.

You have to show them struggling with that. You have to show them wavering, maybe entertaining ideas or having conversations about things that they would not have at the start of the story, because they were just, you know, completely against it. But show them kind of moving more towards the middle, opening up to ideas, having hypothetical conversations; it’s all about showing it. It’s the same thing that we do when a character is trying to hide their emotions, right? Something happens, they express what their words what they’re feeling, but we see in the way that they’re acting and what their body is doing and the way their voice is changing, that they really feel very differently about what’s being said. So, it’s the same thing. It’s just, you have to be able to show in creative ways through their response to what is happening and through the choices again, that they have in the story where they’re weakening in their resolve or where their mindset may be shifting.

Alessandra: What I would suggest Jade is if you don’t already have the Emotion Thesaurus, which is one of Becca’s other books, looking at that. Because like she said, you can show their indecisiveness if they are struggling before they make a bad decision or in their mannerisms, in all of the external things. But I’d also watch movies and study the villains because the beauty of movies, the struggle that, you know, screenwriters have to deal with is you can’t just hop in their head and say, this is what I’m thinking, so they have to show, you know. If you watch Silence of the Lambs, you know, you can see kind of in some of the smaller actions he makes and the decisions he makes that there is some good there. You know, I mean, you like the guy, even though he’s, you know, Hannibal Lector. So I would suggest also watching movies and studying how they do it and how they show in this character’s actions, maybe that they are at times conflicted.

Becca: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Especially with any villain who either ends up being redeemed or who fails in their redemption arc, you know, that they’re moving in that direction, but that they end up going back to what’s safe. Those are the ones that you can look at to really see how they move more toward the middle without you being able to see what they’re thinking about and see what’s happening to them inside. That’s a great idea.

Alessandra: All right, we are out of time. Thank you so much for joining us today. If they’re interested in finding out more about your books, where should they follow you or visit?

Becca: Yes. So we have our blog is, and we have 14 years of blog content there, which is a little crazy. Our bookstore is there also. It has information on all of our books and where those are available. And then we also have a subscription website called, where we’ve taken all of our thesaurus content and we have put it there. It’s searchable, it’s hyperlinked so you can find information on all of the different storytelling aspects that we have written about. We basically took the content from our books and we have created tools using them. We have a character builder there to help you build your character from scratch. We have story mapping tools, timeline tools, lots of different things there that you might find useful. That’s

Alessandra: Perfect. Thank you so much, Becca. It’s been fantastic to have you here. We appreciate your wisdom. Bye guys.

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