Margaret Atwood’s rule of conflict

Today is the 20th day of my 30-Minutes-of-Learning-Challenge. Gosh, it just rolls off the tongue.
Yesterday, I finished a fantastic course on storytelling by Neil Gaiman on Masterclass. Today, I started a course on creative writing (again on Masterclass) by Margaret Atwood.

One thing she said in this first lesson really stuck out to me.

“A story needs a break in the pattern.”

Her way of thinking about conflict is simply to frame it as a break in the pattern for the world or character you’re focusing on. For example…

“Susan gardens every day. She loves to garden – weeding and tending to her plants for hours upon hours. One day, Susan again grabbed her gloves and shovel, pulled on her crocs like always and clomped out to the backyard to find a severed hand sitting next to her tomato bushes.”

Susan gardens every day. Today, a hand was sitting in her garden. This is a clear break in the pattern, a clear break in the routine. It immediately creates conflict for our character, and it can immediately create intrigue for the reader.

I quite like this way of thinking about conflict in story.

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