Rebecca Talley

Post image for Conflict Fuels the Story by Rebecca Talley

In life we generally try to avoid conflict. We tend to avoid confrontation and contention in hopes of finding peace and tranquility. We work hard to avoid problems at home or in the workplace.

In writing fiction, we must create as much conflict as possible because without conflict there is no story.

Conflict can be classified in the following categories:

1. Man vs. Man
2. Man vs. Self
3. Man vs. Society
4. Man vs. Fate/God/Nature

Man vs. man is when the antagonist is another person. The main character, or protagonist, is trying to obtain his goal but another person stands in his way, preventing him from his goal.

Man vs. self includes stories when the protagonist fights against himself and he stands in his own way of accomplishing his goal. Perhaps, his goal may be to become a heart surgeon but his fear that he’ll never be smart enough to get through medical school paralyzes him and prevents him from becoming a surgeon. Self-doubt can be a strong adversary and makes for dynamic stories.

Man vs. society is when the protagonist fights against the rules or laws of society to obtain his goal. A woman may want to marry a man that her society forbids her to marry. She must then struggle against society in order to reach her goal of marrying.

Man vs. fate/God/nature includes stories when the protagonist fights against elements out of his control. A man who wants to reunite with his family after an argument but runs into a hurricane, must fight against the hurricane in order to reach his goal: his family. Natural disasters or other unexplained difficulties placed in the way of the protagonist would be classified as man vs. fate/God/nature.

You must include conflict in writing your fiction because conflict is what fuels the story. You aren’t limited to only one type of conflict, but whichever conflict, or combination of conflicts, you choose to use make sure they are not only realistic, but that they are organic to the story. Otherwise, your story will soon run out of gas.


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), four novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009),  “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and “Aura” (2012), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

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Post image for Finding Story Ideas by Rebecca Talley

I’m often asked where I find ideas for my stories. As a writer, I’ve learned that ideas are everywhere.

Many of the magazine stories I’ve written have been based on a true experience. One such story was about my son. He’d saved money to buy a set of Legos. He was so excited when he’d finally accumulated enough money from doing odd jobs and chores to buy the Legos. He thumbed through the catalog and found the order form. He placed the order form and his money inside an envelope and left it on my desk. While the envelope sat on my desk, Hurricane Katrina hit.

My son came home from school and talked about the devastating effects of the storm and how many children had to leave their homes, pets, and toys. He then ran to my desk and scooped up the envelope. He told me he wanted to donate all of his money to a local Katrina fund. Not only was I proud of my son for his decision, I had a basis for a story that I then sold to a magazine.

Ideas are everywhere. Tidbits of conversation can become the base of a story. Newspaper stories, friend’s experiences, historical accounts, local folklore, myths, or dreams can all provide nuggets for stories. The trick is becoming aware of potential stories.

Here are some ideas:

Take a notebook to the mall. Write down different bits of conversation, descriptions of people you see, and play with various scenarios.

Sift through some newspapers and look for human interest stories. I once read an account of a woman whose husbands all ended up committing suicide in the same way. Children of the dead men accused the woman of killing the men. Is there a story? Perhaps.

Watch TV news and see if it triggers ideas for stories. What about a man who risks his life to save homeless people over and over again? Or the woman who lives with a chimpanzee that then goes berserk? These wouldn’t be full-blown novels, but could form a foundation for possible novels.

Family history can also be a valuable place to find story ideas. I have an ancestor who emigrated from Italy, became a chef, and cooked meals for some of the presidents of the United States. Or what about the ancestor who was a horse thief when America was still a frontier?

Look around you. Ideas are everywhere. Once you start looking, you’ll discover so many ideas you’ll have a hard time keeping track of them. Be sure to write them all down in an idea notebook. And then you’ll be like other writers who declare, “I’ll never live long enough to write about all the ideas I have.”

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Beware of POV Shifts by Rebecca Talley

February 21, 2013
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Point of view, or POV, can be tricky. POV can be defined as the character(s) through whose eyes readers experience the story. Usually, the POV character is the main character, but that’s not always the case. Once you decide which character will be telling the story, you’ll also need to decide if it will be […]

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Read to Write by Rebecca Talley

January 17, 2013
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When I give my school presentations to young aspiring writers I always tell them that in order to write, they must read. Of course, there’s no substitute for actually writing and no matter how many books you read, you won’t be a writer unless you write. But, the best writers are generally those who read. […]

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Don’t Give Up! by Rebecca Talley

November 15, 2012
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As writers, it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t. With housework, full-time jobs, kids, appointments, volunteer opportunities, political involvement, grocery shopping, caring for aging parents, feeding animals, going to school, or a multitude of other commitments that eat away at writing time, sometimes it’s hard to not give up. Add in rejection letters, time spent waiting […]

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What is Your Story Goal? by Rebecca Talley

October 18, 2012
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The main character in a novel must have a goal. He must have something he works toward, something he desperately wants and if he does not obtain that something his life will not be the same. Every novel should have a story goal and that goal should be clearly stated for the reader. In my […]

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