February 22nd, 2010


Resolving Conflicts: Speaking With Confidence

I’ve shared what I know about conflicts. I hope it has demystified them, so you feel more comfortable using conflicts in writing. Or maybe the information helped you think about your own approach to conflicts. For some, the awareness may have sparked celebrations. For others, you may be running toward the hills. For the second group, take off your running shoes and read this post. I’ll tell you how to face conflicts. So this post is more for your personal use than for writing. However, it’s good to show characters with healthy communication. What is the process? STRAIGT TALK.


It’s a strategy people use when they want to 1) maintain focus on an issue; 2) reduce misunderstandings; 3) increase open communication in order to resolve an issue.


1)      Speak for yourself: This means what it says. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF! If you really want to heat up an argument say something like this: “Everyone thinks you’re messy and disrespectful.” There are soooo many things wrong with that statement. First, it’s not your place to fight someone else’s battle. Second, you’re rationalizing your argument by supporting it with “other” people, as if your own thoughts and feelings are not enough of a reason to say something. I’ve talked about this with you already. If you think and feel it, it’s important. Figure out why and own it. Third, saying “everyone” makes your listener paranoid. People who are paranoid don’t listen, they react to threats. Forth, you’re implying this person is messy and disrespectful all the time. No one is something ALL the time.


If you’re invested in resolving an issue, say this, “I think at times you’re messy and disrespectful.”


2)      Discuss sensory data: Think the five senses: hear, smell, taste, sight, and touch. Say something like. “I think you’re being disrespectful when you roll your eyes and yell when I ask you to put your muddy boots by the door.”


3)      Express thoughts: “I think you believe I’m nagging you when you roll your eyes and yell. I don’t want to nag.”


4)      Share feelings: Don’t get gooey and dramatic. Puhlease! That is just too annoying and will derail your resolution plan. “But I can’t ignore the anger I feel when you leave your muddy boots by the door.”  


5)      Discuss wants: “All I want you to keep mud from being tracked into the house.”


6)      State actions: “Just leave your boots on the mat by the door or outside.”


Now don’t run off and try this out just yet. You need to know how to listen to what the person has to say. I’ll cover LISTENING in the next post. I know this seems stilted on paper. It won’t if you take a breather, gather your thoughts and go back to the person once you find the right words, the words that sound natural and true for you, to you. 


What's Real Life Doing In My Fiction?

Sunday afternoon I met up with some friends. During the conversation about books and movies, one girl mentioned something that miffs her when she reads.
Friend: I hate when books mention current day things. I was reading this book the other day and they made reference to Cold Play. I like Cold Play and all, but I don't want to read about them in my fiction book.
Me: OH MY GOD! I feel the same way. I read Fairy Tale last year and the main character said things like, "I brushed my teeth with Crest toothpaste," and "I turned on my IPod.” I felt like I was reading a commercial.

Friend: The minute I see that stuff, I disconnect. It pushes me out of the story.

Me: Me too. I mean, who says they brushed their teeth with Crest or I turned on my IPod? Most people will just say, "I put on my headphones" or "I brushed my teeth." She dated her book. You'll pick that book up 10 years from now and it will be comical and foreign.

Friend: Exactly! It’s okay to mention it if it’s relevant. Like if the main hangout in town is Wal-Mart and your character goes there often. But a one time stop to pick up something? Nope. Just say, "We went to the store.”

At this point, others joined in our discussion. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, which I love by the way, came up as an example of this phenomenon. The first book, which was written in the mid-90’s, makes reference to car phones and other fun things from back in the day. I read these older books now and chuckle. You remember old school car phones, don’t ya? Heeheee! In these books, which are comical by design, the dated material does not bother me. But I know people who hate those references.

On Sunday, we all had examples of books that make reference to modern-day conveniences. And none of us liked it unless the book was historical or satirical. In such instances, the writer needs to mention some items in order to plant the reader in that world or time.


As a writer, when I make reference to real world places or items it serves a purpose. Meaning it’s a foreshadowing tool or needed for character development. And I tend use things that are older, cross generational. When I break out of this personal rule, I pick my words carefully and I do it sparingly. In my WIP my main character Liv loves to run. When she runs, she listens to music. The reader will never know what she listens to, nor will they know if she has an IPod or a MP3. Those things are irrelevant. They have nothing to do with her character development. After all, most teens today listen to great groups and they have some kind of digital music device. What is relevant, what the reader needs to know about Liv is this: Liv’s running is symbolic.


So how do you handle the real world in your fiction? OR What do you think about books that have the real world on their pages?

  • Current Music
    Watching the Olympics
  • Tags