Exercises Finding Story Conflict

1. Choose three short stories to read and think about. For each story, write brief answers to the following questions:

a. What is the protagonist's main goal or desire in this story? How does it change as the story proceeds?

b. What is the central conflict in this story? Who or what is the antagonist or main opposing force?

c. What obstacles or problems does the protagonist encounter in trying to resolve the conflict and reach the goal? What sources of conflict does the author draw upon to create these obstacles?

d. How do the protagonist's strengths or weaknesses influence the progress of the story?

e. When do we first become aware of the existence of conflict or tension?

f. What does the author do to generate suspense?

2. Read The Life of the Party on page 53. Pick two of the charac-ters—a protagonist and an antagonist—and write a scene that brings out the conflict between them. Feel free to add details; you don't need to stick to the events described. Use these questions as a guideline:

a. What does the protagonist want? What is his or her goal or desire?

b. What does the antagonist want?

c. Where do these goals conflict?

d. What other sources of conflict could be here?

e. Where is the party, and why is it being held?

f. What events occurred before this scene and led up to it?

g. What will happen next?

3. Select a letter from Dear Abby, Ann Landers, or a similar newspaper advice column. Based on the situation described in the letter, select a protagonist and an antagonist and write a scene that brings out the conflict. Use the questions in

Exercise 2 as a guideline. Feel free to add details; you need not stick to the events described in the letter or pay attention to the columnist's counsel.

4. Rewrite one of the scenes you created to heighten the suspense to the greatest degree you can.

5. Pretend that you are the protagonist of a suspense story (Suspense with a capital S) and you have landed in one of the dilemmas below. Write a scene describing the situation, making it as dire and suspenseful as possible. Be inventive, and be sure to explain how you get out of the jam.

• The villain has taken you to a remote cabin in the mountains. You are locked inside, and the doors and windows are blocked. You are miles from the nearest town. There is no telephone. A blizzard has buried all the roads and trails deep in snow. You do not know the territory. The villain has told you that he or she will come back in the evening to kill you.

•You and your friend have been locked by the villain in an abandoned warehouse. As you were exploring, trying to find a way out, your friend fell from a ledge and broke his/her leg. Now you realize that the villain has set the warehouse on fire. You must get yourself and your friend out quickly.

•You have sneaked into the villain's office late at night when no one is there in order to find the evidence to prove that she/he has committed the crime you are investigating. While you are searching the office, which is on the 27th floor of the building, you hear a noise. You realize that the villain has arrived unexpectedly and is about to come in the room and discover you. You are unarmed, but she or he is probably carrying a gun.

Chapter 4

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    What is considered the conflict in short stories?
    7 years ago

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