So I did something I never do. I spoke to an editor at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. Kelsy Thompson is an editor for Jolly Fish and Flux. Both houses were recently acquired by North Star Editions (https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/72423-north-star-editions-shining-a-light-on-ya-and-mg-fiction.html).
I was scared as it was as I walked in to talk to her. And Kelsey is super kind. Still I didn’t have my printed pages (broke rule number one–be prepared) and as I rambled at her (broke rule number two–be able to sell your work in 25 words or less), I realized I had no idea what my newest novel was about (broke rule number three–know what you’re story is about in the first place).
After stammering at her for awhile, Kelsy said, “This book idea sounds so cute, Carol. But what’s the conflict?”
I looked at her for about 18 years. Then I jumped up and ran out of the room. I scared three people who were in line to see this terrific editor. This is not my fault.
So what is conflict? We know our characters have goals–things they want. Our job as writers is to keep our characters from getting what they want. That series of events of hindering and stopping our characters from achieving their goals is where the conflict is.
Here’s some math to make things more confusing: cute girl character + what she wants, what she really, really wants + stumbling blocks you throw in the way to torture your character = conflict.
I can do that. Can I do that?
Let’s meet here tomorrow and see.