by Jenny Hansen
So you think you know how to fight dirty?
Monday's post explained the nuance of "clean fighting" and how to use it to your best advantage in your stories.
Today, we're gonna leave Mr. or Ms. Nicey-Nice at the door and show you how wallow in the muck.
Every entry in the list below is guaranteed to make someone in your story see red.
If you’re writing fiction, that anger and tension is a REALLY good thing. There's actually twenty-three of these techniques but if I give them all at once, it's like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant.
So...we’re going to start with the five that will work best in fiction.
p.s. If you dig Dirty Fighting, let us know in the comments. I’ll make this a multi-part series so you have time to really roll around in the swamp.
As I said in Monday’s post, great books are filled with conflict. And great characters who learn important lessons. Plus, dialog is the number one way to do several fun things like move your story quickly and legally bring in backstory.
[For a rundown of the perils of Back Story, read this post by Kristen Lamb.]
OK, go rub some dirt on your face. Jump up and down. Take a few test jabs. I want to help get you into the Dirty Fighting spirit!
In case the dirt didn't do it, let’s take a peek at some great dialogue posts:
I have just ONE big problem with reading about dialog:
Every character is unique. Even though the examples usually rock, I walk away thinking: "My characters would never say that."
How do you write creative conversation that applies only to YOUR character?
One answer is to make him or her fight.
Below are my top five Dirty Fighting Techniques for adding plotting options to your story.
#1 – Triangulating: Don’t leave the issue between you and your conflict partner (could be a family member, friend or love interest), pull everybody in. Quote well-known authorities who agree with you and list every family member whom you know has taken your side (and lie about the ones you haven’t spoken to yet).
Uses: Triangulating is incredibly useful in fiction because you can expand the discussion to more characters and stir up some real drama. Let’s not keep this issue between just us, one character says to the other. Oh no, lets involve everybody.
If you have extreme Dirty Fighting Talent, you can stir the pot and then step back and play a new game called, “Let’s watch the other two people fight.” That’s good times.
#2 – Escalating: Quickly move from the main issue of the argument to questioning your partner’s basic personality, and then move on to wondering whether the relationship is even worth it. Blame your partner for having a flawed personality so that a happy relationship will be impossible.
Uses: Excellent tool for keeping two love interests apart. BUT, the fight better be about something that really, really matters or you risk falling into the Bog of Coincidence and most stories don’t have enough muscle to climb out of that place.
Escalating also allows for plausible use of Back Story. When you’re moving from the main
issue to what the REAL issue is (often happens at the black moment / end of Act 2), escalating the argument will make someone lose control enough that they blurt out something juicy. Way to go, Author!
#3 – Leaving: No problem is so big or important that it can’t be ignored or abandoned all together. Walk out of the room, leave the house, or just refuse to talk. Sometimes just threatening to leave can accomplish the same thing without all the inconvenience of following through.
Uses: My favorite use of this is employing it when the two characters really need each
other. It completely ups the betrayal factor: I can’t depend on you, I don’t trust you, You’ve let me down.
You noticed how dirty those last three statements were, right? Not a clean fight to be found anywhere with “leaving,” which is fantastic for your story! The farther your character falls, the harder the journey is on the way back up, right?
#4 – Timing: Look for a time when your partner is least able to respond or least expects an argument.
Uses: Think about this from a story point of view. A really great time to pick a fight is just before the main character embarks on a journey, has a new murder to solve, is called on to
save the world. Anything with high stakes works great. Be sure the character ambushing them is a likeable one so the reader REALLY gets drawn into the conflict.
#5 – Rejecting Compromise: Never back down. Stick with the philosophy that only one of you can win.
Uses: This is a kickass Dirty Fighting trick to use on the main character. If there is only one winner, there is automatic conflict involved for the person who “loses.” The
solutions are endless.
Note: We'd love to see you do a few lines of dialogue down in the comments to illustrate one or many of these techniques.
Does this make sense to you? Can you see places in your story where you can use a good fight to amp that tension sky-high? Which one is your favorite?
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. In addition to being a founding member here at WITS, Jenny also hangs out on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her other blog, More Cowbell.
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