Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Creating Conflict with a Closed Environment

A simple device for keeping your characters locked in conflict is the Closed Environment. No bond/relationship is necessary to keep the characters in it. It's simply a situation with little or no connection to the outside world.

What goes on in the closed environment is hidden from the outside world. Characters within the closed environment cannot readily receive help or escape. So, a closed environment protects the bad and makes the good vulnerable.

For example, the internal affairs of any private or secretive organization happen in a closed environment. An island on which your characters are shipwrecked is a closed environment. A space capsule. A home. And so on.

Notice that a closed environment can also be, or become, a crucible. But a closed environment isn't necessarily a crucible. For example, in Moby Dick, the ship, the Pequod, is a closed environment. But the whole sea contains the situation/crucible that binds Captain Ahab and the White Whale.

The difference? The characters in a closed environment needn't be bonded to each other. The characters in a crucible are tightly bound in a stressful relationship.

You can usually improve a scene by setting it in a closed environment to enhance the conflict. In fact, consider a closed environment for every scene, because it always increases the tension. To leaven the conflict in a scene that doesn't provide the stress of a crucible, see if you can change the location to a closed environment. All you need do is use a location that makes it hard for characters to leave.

Plotting Tip: In the beginning, while imagining your characters, consider what closed environments and/or crucibles they might interact in. It's like drilling for oil: you must drill in the right place. The plotting ideas you come up with this way will be much better than those you come up with by just drilling anywhere.

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Blogger OpenDebateForum said...

Interesting read, thanks.

12:05 PM  

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