How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style – Examples From “Madam Secretary”

Photo by Tim Nooteboom

Photo by Tim Nooteboom

I’m a Netflix Junkie pure and simple.

Watching a full series of television episodes back to back has taught me so much about story that even my husband, geek-number-loving sweetheart, knows things like the hero’s journey. My teenage son will say during of a movie, “That is so the black moment, Mom.”

I suppose we are story geeks and I am entirely to blame for their corruption. Well, me and Susan May Warren. Still, I watch new shows as if I can’t get enough of them, even if there is only one season. Yes, I set myself up for frustration as I rant and rave about the time to wait between season 1 and season 2.

The most recent series to get me hooked is Madam Secretary. Season 1, Episodes 7-8 got me so excited about story craft and Idea Sparking examples, I just had to share them with you.

This clip’s backstory will help you understand the tips I found in episodes 7- 8.

Idea Sparking Examples From Madam Secretary Part 1:

*Make Secrets A Focal Point In The Plot or Relationships

In episode 7 the daughter believes her father is having an affair while her mother is out of town. The truth is her husband has been recalled to work for the NSA undercover. When Mom finds out that he is working for the NSA, they still can’t tell the daughter the truth.

Photo by Israel Papillon

Photo by Israel Papillon

This sets up the family for more trouble if the press who recently called him Top Ten in Arm Candy in previous episodes if the press see’s him in public with his female handler and he can’t explain.

In episode 8 both the Secretary of State and her husband can’t share a lot of the specifics about their jobs because of high clearance levels. The set up for secrets and lies, cloaked by unexplained actions is going to ramp up the tension over and over.

Think of the danger he has of being recognized as well during covert operations. I also think it might be used as leverage over the Secretary of State when she knows deadly secrets in future episodes.

Secrets Make Conflict!

*Use Mirroring To build Conflict In Scenes and Tension for Hero/Heroines-

Photo Jeremy Doorten

Photo Jeremy Doorten

In episode 7 we see an office relationship with two members of the Secretary of State’s Staff. They are trying to hide a on and off relationship from a boyfriend. The idea of that becoming known to the significant other is a mirror of what that might be like for the Secretary of State.

In episode 8 a former NSA operative the heroine calls in to do a covert operation is kidnapped and the spouse is devastated. We see how awful it would be for the heroine herself to go through this horrible experience. This builds emotional tension for the heroine as her husband has been recalled to work with the NSA.

I just bet we are seeing foreshadowing.

Have you recognized any other Idea Sparking Conflict Strategies in shows you watch?








About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

4 thoughts on “How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style – Examples From “Madam Secretary”

  1. Gail Johnson says:

    Great post! I confess I am Netflix Junkie, too. My latest crave is “Person of Interest.” We sit around and pick a part the scenes. Loved these ideas.

  2. […] full of How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style examples! Last week we looked at the use of other strategies used in this series. These last few episodes have a few more examples I’d like to share with […]

  3. […] For tips on story structure/spine, check out: How To Create Believeable Character Change  and How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style. You can also check out the category Plot Development in the side […]

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