How to Multi-Layer A Novel’s Conflict with Tips From Madam Secretary – Rafflecopter Winner Announced

Photo by Robert Linden

Photo by Robert Linden

Last night I caught up on the last three episodes of Madam Secretary. Feeding my inner TV junkie while reflecting on craft is so much fun.

Before I share the latest insights, I’d like to announce the winners of the Idea Sparking: 30 Tips to Write a Novel in a Month Rafflecopter contest:

The Winner of the $50 Amazon Gift Card is Alyson Champion!!

The Winner of the hour phone brainstorming session is Heidi Madsen Robbins!!

Winners will be contacted by mail later today with prize information. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Rafflecopter to celebrate the launch of my new book!

Now for our Tuesday craft tips from Madam Secretary. As one of my favorite new shows, I am often in awe of the many layers to craft the writer uses.

Season 2, Episode 4 multi-layers the conflict to be external and internal. The conflict feeds into public and personal stakes.

Here is how the conflict unfolds in this episode sequentially:

*President has cut her out of the inner circle because of recent issues in Russia while she was there. (External)

*Her daughter and the president’s son have an inappropriate photo about to hit the news cycle. (External)

*The Secretary of State must manage her anger like a politician, despite her maternal instincts. (Internal)

*The Kumari Devi is visiting. A deeply religious figure will not want to be associated with the poor press. (External)

*Her husband loses his temper on national television as the media frenzy begins. (External)

*The Secretary of State wants to cheer for her husband’s stance and speak up herself, but must stuff her emotions. (Internal)

*The President invites the Secretary of State and her husband over for dinner. The resulting argument could cost her the job. (External and Internal Components Involved)

Resulting Stakes:

Photo by MarcLondon

Photo by MarcLondon

Public: Loss of her impact on policy, Loss of public respect, Loss of relationships with foreign dignitaries, and loss of public office position.

Photo by Tim Hill

Photo by Tim Hill

Personal: Loss of relationship with family if handled wrong, pain to her family, embarrassment, and loss of right to express her own emotions. From these examples what can we learn to apply to our own novels?

How to Multi-Layer a Novel’s Conflict with Tips From Madam Secretary:

*Create multiple external conflicts in your novel. These are obstacles that result from things outside of the individual. Events, or actions by others that have an impact on your character.

*Create multiple internal conflicts in your novel. These are obstacles that result from your character’s emotions or flaws.

*Create multiple public stakes. These are simply the things your character has to lose that are in the public arena.

*Create multiple private stakes. These are the private things your character has to lose.

*Weave in tension by making the reader care about the stakes. We see this when the Secretary of State must chose between what is good for her daughter and the country.

What other books or movies are great at multi-layering conflict?


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.

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