Friday, June 11, 2010


Stories are about relationships. You recall the seven basic plots:

  • Man vs. Nature

  • Man vs. Man

  • Man vs. Environment

  • Man vs. Machine

  • Man vs. Supernatural

  • Man vs. Self

  • Man vs. God

Implied in this view of literature is a relationship. In a book, we may see these relationships many times. A tornado happens on page one, giving us Man vs. Nature. The tornado destroys the character’s house, so he is forced to deal with the insurance company, giving us Man vs. Environment. He becomes angry with God for destroying his house, giving us Man vs. God. In every scene that is worth writing, we are addressing some kind of relationship. The stronger the conflict in that relationship the better.

One of the easiest ways to put some emotion into a weak scene is to throw in some relationship conflict, ideally of the Man vs. Man kind. We love to see two characters arguing about something.

In some stories, we can’t reveal the name of the antagonist until late in the book, so we have to temper the conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist when they are on a page together, but we want to show that conflict. We do that by having the protagonist discover something the antagonist has done that is hurtful to him or his goals. One of the characters may be veiled, but we still need to highlight the relationship.