Vlog: Conflict in Writing by Janice Seagraves

Conflict in writing

By Janice Seagraves


Most writers know that to have an interesting story which draws the reader in, you must have conflict.

Conflict = story.

One way to have conflict is to make your main character an underdog.

Why an underdog?

Because people love to root for an underdog.

Example: Remember Charlie Brown, trying every year to kick that football? Didn’t you root for him, even though you knew Lucy would pull that ball away each and every time, he tried to kick it?

That’s conflict.

Let’s face it, no one wants to root for Ken and Barbie who live an idyllic life in suburbia.

In my book Windswept Shores, I have my heroine, Megan have a really bad day:

Windswept Shores Excerpt:

If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she’d go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. “God, this thing is heavy.” With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.


Another way to have conflict in a romance is to have newly divorced Ken, (Barbie ran off with G.I. Joe), have a miserable day—conflict.

Example: Say Ken’s Porsche breaks down on the way to work and he has to have it towed. As he waits impatiently for the tow truck driver, he’s mentally marking off all the things that went wrong that week (conflict). Just after he’s comes to the fact that he is alone and unloved the tow truck driver arrives. But a pretty woman steps out. It’s P.J. The baggy coveralls can’t hide her full (Mattel) figure and the grease smudges on her (plastic) face can’t cover up her lovely face or her Malibu tan.  Maybe P.J.’s father or uncle owns the business, or maybe she owns it herself.  Or maybe she’s not a tow truck driver, but a pick-up service for a car rental agency.

So Ken thanks his lucky star that he’s spotted this beauty, but when he asks P.J. out she turns him down—flat.

Why? Conflict.

No conflict—no story.

In my book Windswept Shores, I have Megan alone on a deserted island, until Seth washes up on shore. The first thing he does is sniff her hair.

Why? Conflict.

Windswept Shores excerpt:

“Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sidney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”

“G’day, Megz,” he answered, struggling to sit-up. “Sorry, I’m not from your plane.”

Megan slipped an arm around him lifting his back off the sand. Turning his head to her hair, he took in a couple of short breaths. Megan pulled back staring at him. “What the—did you just sniff me?”

“Ya smell too good not to.” He grinned, causing his cheeks to dimple.  “Name’s Seth Dawson.”


Whatever your conflict is, you’ve got to either keep it going or bring in some new conflict. New conflict is great, especially if you overlay it with the old conflict.

Example: Charlie Brown gets depressed about not kicking the football and visit Lucy at her psychiatrist’s help booth to tell her all his troubles. Then she basically calls him a loser.

Why? For additional conflict.

Lucy is the antagonist; her job is to cause conflict.

Back to Ken. He’s finally got P.J. to go on a date with him. Everything is great in Ken’s life right?  But what if her business partner doesn’t like Ken and tells him so right to his face?

Why? For additional conflict. That partner is the antagonist for Ken’s story. He’ll keep poor Ken on his toes for the rest of the story.

In Windswept Shores, I have the wild pigs that inhabit their island for additional conflict. They are the antagonist and keep my characters down or at least running for their lives. I have them in place way before things getting hot and heavy between my couple.

Windswept Shores excerpt:

“You can’t charge boars barehanded. They have long, sharp tusks.” She frowned. “The last time I ran across a wild pig, I had to climb a tree.”

He slammed his fist on the boat’s railing. “I should have taken the offal out last night and buried them.” Opening a chest, Seth took out a spear gun. “You know how to use one of these?”

“No, I’ve only seen them on TV.” She set the eggs on the swivel chair.

“It’s just like on the box. You point and pull the trigger.” Seth demonstrated, loading it with a long spear with a wicked looking barb.

“What are you going to do?” She took the spear-gun.

Seth pushed the sharp end away from him. “I’m gonna make a bullroarer.” He brought out some heavy duty fishing line, tying a pointed weight to the end of it. “If I get charged, shoot. But try not to hit me.”

“I’ll try,” she said softly.

“Try a little harder than that, luv.” He grinned as he climbed down the ladder.




How to Make Your Book A Page Turner

How to make your book a page turner 

 by Janice Seagraves 


To make your book a page turner, you’ll need to hook your readers. 


Place a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter, so the reader won’t want to set your book down. 


A hook doesn’t have to be the middle of some crisis like a cliff hanger in the old serials where the hero is left literally hanging off a cliff. It can be something that leaves a question in the readers mind: Will she/he kiss/accept him/her. 


If your story is suspense, mystery or horror, don’t end the conflict until the very last page. Do the same thing if you’re writing romance, keep some unresolved question between your couple until the very last page. 


In that way you’re keeping the tension going. 


Remember you have to have tension to have a story. No tension, no story. 


Then your reader will be staggering into work the next day, saying, “I just read the best book. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t go to sleep until three in the morning.”

Sound-a-like Words

Sound-a-like words

By Janice Seagraves


Today my daughter and I were talking about sound-a-like words that  mess up a perfectly good sentence.

Ah—as in Ah, I just got that.

Aw—as in Aw, I’m disappointed.

Awe—as in I’m in Awe of the majestic mountains that surround the Yosemite valley.

Then there is:

There—over there by the car.

Their—is a possessive—That’s their car.

They’re— is a contraction of they are—They’re making a get-a-way in their car.


Yeah—I agree with you.

Yea—a vote.

Yay!—a cheer.

Don’t forget the possessives that don’t always have an apostrophe s (‘s):

Their—possessive of they—that’s their car.

Its—it’s is is a contraction while the possessive of it is its.


What other sound-a-like words can you think of?

Revision Hell by Janice Seagraves

 Revision Hell

by Janice Seagraves

1) Do a read through. Read your manuscript like a reader. Either print it out, load it into your ereader or change the font and read it on your computer. Note: changing the font will make your manuscript look different and you can see it with fresh eyes.

2) Keep a note pad by you as you read. Take notes, but keep it simple: Ch. 1 needs a better opening hook. Ch. 2 starts out too slow.

3) After you do your read through, go through it again, but this time write each scene down.

I won’t kid you, this is the hardest part of revision, but it is the most rewarding. Write it simply, Ch. 1: scene 3: the scene where the hero and heroine meet is too slow.  Ch. 2: scene 1: the wake up scene is too cliché.

4) As you write each scene add a number from 1 to 10 for its importance to your story. Note: Don’t revise until you write all the scenes down.

5) After you have all the scenes down, you will be able to look each over each scene in your story to see which ones you want to delete. This step helps you see the bigger picture, so to speak.

6) But don’t delete yet!

7) Open a new file on your computer and name it “deleted scenes” with the title of your ms. In this file you’ll paste in the scenes you are taking out. It makes taking out those scenes nearly painless, and when you reread your ms you can see if your ms flows better without them. If it doesn’t then you can always put it back in.

8) After you have taken out the scenes that slowed your prose, reread your entire manuscript like a reader. If it flows, you’re done.

9) Send it to a beta reader, or if you’re feeling really confident sent it to a publisher.

Watch Those Tenses

Watch Those Tenses
By Janice Seagraves
What are tenses exactly?
There’s the past tense, the present tense and the future tense. There are more of course, but for this lesson I’m keeping it simple.
Have I lost you?
To put it simply: Past tense is things that have already happened. Present Tense is things happening right now. Future tense is things that haven’t happened yet.
Example Past Tense: Sally went to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the past tense: went
Example Present Tense: Sally is going to the store to get some milk.
Here I used the present tense: going
Example Future Tense: Sally will go the store to get some milk.
Here I used the future tense: will go.
What tense should you use for writing?
In most fictions such as romance, suspense, paranormal, fantasy etc., I suggest you use past tense as most editors (not all) will prefer it. It was explained to me this way:
“When you tell a story, you tell it like it has already happened.”
But there will be times when you’ll need to use another tense: when something hasn’t happened yet or when someone is doing something right this moment in your story.
Here’s an example from Lord of the Ring:
[Galadriel descends to a glade and fills a silver pitcher with water from a stream. She stands before an ornate stand with a shallow silver basin upon it. The Lady turns towards Frodo.]
Galadriel: “Will you look into the mirror?”
Frodo: “What will I see?”
Galadriel: [stepping up to the basin] “Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror… shows many things…”
[She begins to pour the water into the silver mirror.]
Galadriel: “…things that were… things that are… and some things…” [She empties the ewer and steps back] “that have not yet come to pass.”
Past tense: –ed words, had, was/were, gone, done, finished, verb forms ending in -ing.
Example: I had already studied tenses for writing.
Present tense: am/is/are, going, doing, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I am studying tenses for writing.
Future tense: will be/shall be/will have, verb forms ending in –ing.
Example: I will be studying tenses for writing.
As you can see –ing words work for all tenses, but –ing can weaken your prose, so don’t use them too often.

When to use then and than

I’ve been suffering with a cold, which is the third for this winter. And yes I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

However, I’m feeling a little bit better than I was and I thought I do a mini lesson.

If I’ve done this one before, please forgive me.

When to use then and than

By Janice Seagraves

Then and Than may look a lot alike but they are used for two completely different functions.

Use then when you need to show when something happened.

Example: Karen went out to the car to get her purse and then came back inside.

I didn’t use a comma here because Karen did both things.

However, you can also use then by itself since and is implied.

Example: Karen went out the car to get her purse, then came back inside.

Why not use and by itself?

Because and is used when something happens at the same time. Karen can’t go out the car and go back inside at the same time, so and can’t be used here.

On shorter sentences you wouldn’t necessarily need the comma, but here I used it in place of the missing and. However on longer sentences you can use and then.

And then there was than.

Use than when you’re comparing things.

Example: I like this banana better than that apple.

Example: I like driving the Cadillac more than I did the Toyota.

Example: I like skiing better than hiking through the snow.

From this example you might think you’d use then more than than, then you’d be right.