Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sandwiching the Layers Part 1

We have come up with ten basic ideas for all four layers of conflict. You may find you need to add more scenes to fill in the gaps in the story. You may change your mind about elements of the plot. The point is to have a series of prompts that keeps you working through your rough draft.

You can tweak and enrich the draft during the revision layers. Things will come to you as you write that you didn’t think of before. Your characters will come alive and may change the trajectory of your story. That’s expected. What’s important is to avoid getting stuck in the muddy middle.

Let’s layer the forty scene ideas we've developed in the most logical order.

Internal Conflict 1: Dick and Sally make plans to go on a long-awaited vacation. He gets a call.

External Conflict 1: Dick learns a meteor will strike. 

Antagonist Conflict 1: Ted learns there is a meteor headed toward earth. Finally, the world can be destroyed and he doesn’t have to lift a finger. All he has to do is sit back and watch the show.

Interpersonal Conflict 1: Jane meets with Ted to declare her feelings before it is too late. He manipulates her into helping him without telling her the real reason.

Internal Conflict 2: Dick informs Sally that he isn’t retiring after all. He can’t tell her why.

Antagonist Conflict 2: Dick has come up with a plan. Ted vows to make sure it doesn’t work.

Interpersonal Conflict 2: Jane meets with Dick and gives him erroneous data.

External Conflict 2: Dick thinks of a way to stop the meteor while it is still far away. He will nudge it with a satellite. 

Interpersonal Conflict 3: General Smith argues that his satellite is too important to be used to adjust the meteor’s trajectory. It could cause more harm than good. They should blow it up.

Internal Conflict 3: Dick and Sally fight about the vacation. Looks like we have to cancel it.

Antagonist Conflict 3: Ted is denied access to the equipment. He has something on one of the ground crew, Bob, and uses that pressure to convince him to tamper with it.
     "But we’ll all die."
     "Do you want to die now or later?"

Interpersonal Conflict 4: Bob tries to tinker with the satellite, but almost gets caught by Jane.

Antagonist Conflict 4: Ted confronts Dick. "Why are you trying to stop the inevitable?"

Interpersonal Conflict 5: General Smith relents and allows the satellite to be used.

External Conflict 3: The satellite crashes into the meteor, but doesn’t change the trajectory.

Turning Point One

Internal Conflict 4: Sally gives Dick an ultimatum. 
     "I’m tired of waiting. It’s me or the job." 
      Dick replies, "If I don’t do this there won’t be any me or you."
     "What do you mean?"
     "I can’t tell you."

External Conflict 4: Dick comes up with plan to divert the meteor with a laser beam.

Antagonist Conflict 5: Dick has come up with a new plan. So Ted must get Bob to tamper with the laser beam.

External 5: They can’t get the beam close enough from the ground.

Antagonist Conflict 6: Ted calls Sally and tells her Dick and Jane are having an affair.

Internal Conflict 5: Sally accuses Dick of having an affair with Jane at work. Dick is called away.

Interpersonal Conflict 6: Captain Curtis balks at sending the laser to the space station.

External Conflict 6: They send the laser to the space station. The equipment breaks off and is lost in space.

Turning Point 2

Next time, we will complete our layering process.

For previous posts on this topic, check out:

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Brilliant! I love this blog. Thank you! :)

  2. oh wow! That's a lot of layers. You did a great job of peeling them back for us--thanks!

  3. Look forward to the next post. A great example of how internal conflict can be externalized to create story events.

  4. Writing a book isn't as simple as it may appear on the surface. So much more is involved than committing words to paper. This is an incredible teaching series of posts, Diana. Thank you. :-)


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