Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sandwiching the Layers Part 2

We have developed forty conflict ideas and layered the first half of the story. Let’s finish the process. We left off at turning point 2. Now the hero must come up with the correct solution to the problem, the one he resisted at first: blow the meteor up.

Internal Conflict 6: Dick finds Sally packing her bags.

     Dick says, "Don’t leave. I love you. I’ve always loved you." 

     She replies, "Then why are you ruining things?" 
     Should he tell? Is it better for her to know or not know that their days are numbered?

Antagonist 7: Dick confronts Ted. 

     "You had something to do with this."

     "You’ll never prove it and in a few days it won’t matter anyway."

External 7: They are back to the drawing board - all seems lost. They enter countdown mode. 

Internal Conflict 7: Sally tells Dick that she received a call from Ted and that he said there was no reason for Dick to stay at work. That he is lying to her.

External 8: Dick comes up with a final plan. It is do or die. They will nuke the meteor. 

Antagonist 8: Ted must find a way to make certain the shuttle doesn’t take off.

Interpersonal Conflict 7: Captain Curtis appeals to his crew. Is anyone willing to go? Captain Curtis decides to go himself.

Internal Conflict 8: Dick tells Sally the truth.


External 9: They rev up the shuttle loaded with a lethal payload to intercept the meteor and, despite last minute glitches, the shuttle takes off on a suicide mission.

Antagonist 9: Ted’s attempts to prevent take-off fail.

Interpersonal Conflict 8: Ted and Jane have a show down. Jane can’t believe Ted is so evil.

Internal Conflict 9: Dick and Sally spend the evening together, knowing it may be their last.

Interpersonal Conflict 9: Bob rats on Ted.

Interpersonal Conflict 10: Jane and Bob celebrate when the shuttle succeeds. 

Antagonist 10: Ted is led off in handcuffs.


External 10: Their plan succeeds and everyone lives, except the crew of the shuttle.

Interpersonal Conflict 11: General Smith tells Dick to stay. He is too valuable an asset to retire.

Internal Conflict 10: Dick and Sally leave for the airport to go on their vacation.

The End

Now that we have a basic outline of the plot progression, we can begin our first draft. If massive changes are made along the way, it doesn’t hurt to repeat this exercise at the end. Make a list of each scene and the conflict it addresses. Does it still flow in a logical cause and effect order?

For more information on how to flesh out your conflict outline, check out Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict.

For other posts in this series, 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. This is excellent advice, but I'd like to mention it can be done 'on the fly' as we "organic" writers move forward through our books. As long as you keep these points in mind, you can adapt it to your own writing methods.

    Terry's Place

  2. Speaking of 'fly' ... where do Dick and Sally go on their vacation?

  3. I'm thinking Kona, Hawaii. Where they are called to the observatory on Mauna Kea where a new galactic threat is observed. :)

    This method will appeal more to planners than pantsers, but it just proves that if you can come up with 40 sentences, you can base an entire story off of them. Most of us can come up with 40 sentences. I came up with the premise just for this series of posts. Again, feel free to write the book if the premise "Thrills" you. :)

  4. Who says "anybody can write a book"? The planning you put into these posts, Diana, is mind-boggling. Although I'm much more of a panster than a planner, I always start with a basic story line before I allow my characters any latitude to alter my intended path.

    Thank you for your hard work in putting this together for us.

  5. What's great about this approach is that pantsers can apply it once they've meandered their way through the intended story material. Applying an after-the-fact outline allows pantsers to see where they drifted sideways and failed to push the story along its true arc.

    Love this, Diana!


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