I attended a writers seminar on story conflict. Conflict is the tool that keeps your story moving forward. It's the obstacle your antagonist throws in your protagonist's ways as your protagonist moves toward her goal.
During the seminar, participants anonymously shared their story conflicts, condensed to one line. The presenter praised many of the conflict ideas, but some of them she thought needed work. Understandably. But some of the ideas she praised, I didn't quite get and some of the ideas she thought needed work, I thought were fine.
As I drove home, I realized the reason the presenter and I had different reactions to the conflict ideas is that we have different filters. I define filters as a writer's background, her life experiences, her truths, which determines how she processes a story. When readers and authors have similar backgrounds, experiences and truths, they connect. Readers and authors who have different filters can't connect. No harm; no foul. They're just different.
Let's take the Peter Pan story as an example. The conflict of that story is Peter Pan didn't want to grow up. Ever. I can't relate to that. Hence, I don't particularly like that story. I don't particularly like the Cinderella fairy tale, either. I wanted her to move out of her stepmother's house.
My point is, don't shy from your story idea just because someone else can't connect with it. You may find the idea or conflict isn't big enough to carry a story. That's a another issue. But don't compromise your message just because someone else has a different filter.
Monday, April 14, 2008