June 15, 2015

Action and Conflict

When you write a story for children, action and conflict should play huge roles. Yet some of the submissions that I receive for Kid's Imagination Train online magazine (http://www.kidsimaginationtrain.com/ ) are missing these very important elements.

Let's say a story begins with this scene:  a little girl tells her mother that she doesn’t want to go to school. The mother asks her daughter why she doesn't want to go to class.  The child tells her mother she can't leave home without her pet cat.  Notice that while this scene sets up the plot, it does not have any action.  This is telling. It's a conversation. 

A better way to do this would be by showing.  Now, if the little girl says will not go to school without her cat and then hides the cat in her book bag, the story has action. Through her actions we know that she loves her cat and doesn’t want to be separated from it.  Also through her actions, conflict is set up.  I’m betting the cat will cause trouble in class.  Maybe the cat causes a distraction by playing with students' shoelaces, lying across text books, and meowing loudly during lessons. 

The story should build with more tension that will lead to the climax and finally, to the resolution.  Keep in mind that the ending should also be active.  Don't tell us what happened. Having dialogue at the end of the story doesn’t cut it.  Let there be more action!  Show us how the little girl solves the feline dilemma.  Add a twist or a surprise so that the ending is unpredictable. 

Children’s stories thrive on action.  Without it, a story is simply dialogue and that can create a pretty boring story.  Stories for the young also depend on conflict.  It is needed to make us care about the main character and to drive the plot.  Without conflict, story is stagnant—there is no quest, no job for the main character to tackle.   

It’s easy to figure out if you have action and conflict.  Simply think of the plot of  your story in pictures or scenes.  If you see a character doing something actively, you have succeeded.  You have accomplished incorporating two important elements into your story (and that makes this editor very happy).

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