Internal conflict manifested in ...

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  • Internal conflict manifested in ...

    I have this story that's making me nuts. The main character is a 16 year old weird kid who has no friends. He has no social skills at all. He's smart and now is in college. He's the kid who got beat up in high school all the time.

    What he wants is to be accepted, or to have a friend. That's it. He wants a friend, but he doesn't know how to get one.

    For the life of me, I can't think of enough external conflict to keep the second act going, or even get it started. He does eventually make friends with a group of radicals and gets involved in a situation that's violent. He stays with the group because he's been accepted by them and not because he particularly believes in what they're doing.

    So short of having him lurking in the student center or leaving his house on Friday nights so his parents think he has a social life, I can't come up with anything for this kid.

    HELP, please. How do I get his want/need for human contact to manifest in external actions/conflict? He can only get his ass kicked so many times for stalking the coffee hut. There has to be something more, but what?

  • #2
    Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

    In my humble opinion, your post makes it sound like what you think is your main story is really half backstory and half early Act One set-up. You say you can't think of enough external stuff to keep your second act going --seems to me that he better be in neck-deep with these radicals by start of the second act!

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    • #3
      Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

      Make him pro-active.

      The kid goes through joining a string of social organizations, running the gamut from various fraternities to the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Gay Student Union (even though he's straight), the College Republicans, and the Campus Crusade for Christ, and either dumping or being dumped by each group in turn.

      The group of violent radicals is the one that finally sticks.

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      • #4
        Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

        Let him want to be accepted and make a friend, but add something else to your story. Something more interesting and unique.

        The Karate Kid is also about a boy who wanted to make a friend and defend himself against bullies, but to do it, he had to learn karate in a fascinating way from a fascinating teacher.

        ET is about a lonely boy who makes a friend, but not a run-of-the-mill friend.

        BIG is about a boy who liked a girl but was too short to be taken seriously, until...

        The Wizard of Oz starts out as with an unhappy kid who isn't getting along with her parents and neighbors, and then something huge happens. Now she has serious tasks she must accomplish in order to get back home.

        Holes is about a geeky boy making friends while in a unique sort of detention center, with a mystery going on.

        Look what the additional goals tasks and obstacles and magical elements did to make those stories more interesting, unique and appealing.

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        • #5
          Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

          It doesn't sound like to me you have a good grip on your character. The deeper
          you know your character, the easier it is to set up conflict. What makes him
          tick. What makes him annoyed. What scares, what drives, what...

          Dig deeper into your character and quickly you'll get past this crossroad.

          Charli

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          • #6
            Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

            Yes. Neck deep with radicals.
            Conflict? Maybe he's arrested for something that they did. He keeps his mouth shut about it out of loyalty to the members of the group, but they wind up selling him out to save their own skins.
            What sort of radicals are they. Animal rights, maybe?
            Could he, once he has been sold out by the group, befriend one of the researchers whose lab was destroyed after he realizes that the group was doing more harm than good. Maybe the lab was studying medicines to prevent some sort of fatal veterinary disease that could far outweigh the "good" these activists think they are doing. By this, I mean, a few lab rats get liberated, which prevents thousands of animals from getting a cure for this fatal disease.
            Maybe he just goes to apologize and the researcher realizes he was involved with these people for acceptance.
            Or, something like that.

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            • #7
              Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

              I just have to say, I love this board and the people who come here. You've given me a lot to think about.

              Thank you.

              I have until August 29 to write a first draft of this script. I'm in an MFA program and my advisor is insisting I give her the first draft by the 29th. The deadline is actually helping me write, but I'm tearing my hair out. I have the last 30 pages done, but getting to them is making me nuts.

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              • #8
                Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

                In my humble opinion JoanEasly nailed it with this...

                "Let him want to be accepted and make a friend, but add something else to your story. Something more interesting and unique."

                Because your character is somewhat like Remy in "Higher Learning". He was a smart outcast that just wanted to fit in. He tried the fraternity route and it didn't work. He tried several clicks, but ended up hanging with the skinheads. But as mentioned above...there was MUCH MORE to the story than just this. In fact, he wasn't even the protagonist.

                It seems like you have the makings of a character.
                Now you need to find out the story to put him in and use what you know of him to direct him through that story. (i.e. what decisions would this particular character make in story X that would be different from anyone else.)

                Just opinion. Good luck.

                Santino

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                • #9
                  Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

                  Obviously if you're in an MFA program you must know your stuff and take your craft seriously, so I don't mean to come off smug or condescending, but...

                  If your entire Act 2 is wide open, I don't see how you could possibly "have [your] last 30 pages done." Those last 30 pages, it seems to me, have to be the specific resolution of all that happens during the preceding 60+!

                  If the bit with the radicals begins and ends within those last thirty pages, I would seriously re-examine the way you have your story structured. Also, some indication of the genre might help us to explore this with you a little more helpfully. It sounds overly episodic to me, but if you're going for quirky character study than it wouldn't be as big a problem as it might be in a more commercial piece.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Internal conflict manifested in ...

                    Originally posted by AaronB
                    Make him pro-active.

                    The kid goes through joining a string of social organizations, running the gamut from various fraternities to the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Gay Student Union (even though he's straight), the College Republicans, and the Campus Crusade for Christ, and either dumping or being dumped by each group in turn.

                    The group of violent radicals is the one that finally sticks.
                    I like this example. He tries to join different groups and the only one that sticks is the violent radical group. He knows what failure is like, which is keeping him from leaving that radical group.

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