Brainstorming Character Conflicts

Brainstorming Character Conflicts

I write Christian romantic suspense, so inside that genre, I need to have a faith arc, a romantic arc, and a suspense arc. Each of those arcs require internal and external conflicts, motivations, and different characterizations.

When I’m setting up and getting ready to plot a book, the first thing (other than my characters) that I need to know are what those conflicts and motivations are, and how they’re going to be resolved/utilized.

I take a large white board and write my female protagonist’s name across the top on one side, and my male protagonist’s name across the top on the other.

Each arc has a different marker color. Here is where I plot out the three different story arcs, motivations, and conflicts. I also determine what will resolve those conflicts, how each arc will climax, and how the characters’ motivations will flow and ebb with the story.

Here is a time-lapsed video of my process:

A final product looks like this photo:

Once I have that finished whiteboard, I set up a chapter-by-chapter brief outline. Basically, it’s, “In this chapter, this happens.” Then I’m ready to write.

As I sat down to write this particular book, I realized I needed to do the characterization one more time. This story is about an FBI agent who is working with a special forces A-Team in a joint operation to uncover an eco-terrorist organization. I realized that before I could write this book, I needed to break down my organization the same way I broke down those characters.  I didn’t use a whiteboard this time; just the pages of a notebook. Here is what that looked like:

Like the characters, I needed motivations, organization, purpose, and eventual demise.

We all create with different brains, and different creative processes appeal to people in distinctive ways. It took me a few years of just letting my creativity flow to understand that my way of creating characters (and apparently terrorist organizations) can feel or look a little chaotic to someone who doesn’t create the same way as me – and that’s okay! I would never be able to sit down and fill out a character worksheet. I need that big empty whiteboard full of possibilities.

How do you like to create your characters?


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