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Adding Tension With Conflicting Alliances

Alliances can drag characters into gangs, criminal activities, and wars. Many tales hinge on divided alliances. Loyalty is often tested.

Members feel they belong to their religious congregations and sports teams. Citizens feel they belong to their city, state, or country. Plots can turn when the governing bodies of those organizations, cities, states, or countries place unreasonable demands on the characters they feel they “own.”

Organizations can be benevolent or menacing. 

Dick can force others to belong to his group. He can try to escape a group. Dick can be shunned, punished, or murdered if he attempts to leave a group.

Jane may be willing to lie, cheat, steal, or kill to belong to an exclusive club.

Sally can behave in ways that are detrimental in order to “belong.” She will accept unpleasant circumstances and tolerate unpleasant people in an attempt to “fit in.”

How far is Sally willing to go to belong to, or escape from, a group? This can make a taut Thriller.

If Jane joins a group or club and that group or club starts taking over her life, she has an overall story problem and the situation creates conflict for everyone around her: coworkers, family, spouse, and children.

If a teenaged Sally is desperate to fit into a clique at school, you have another overall story problem. She might humiliate and harm herself to be included. Cliques aren’t limited to high school. They surrounded royalty, emperors, prophets, politicians, actors, and rock stars.

Children feel they belong to their parents, family, or clan. If parents, families, or clans feel they own family members and can tell them what to do and how to live their lives, you have conflict. Perceived ownership can serve as an antagonist motive in a Romance or serve as the basis for a Literary novel.

Lovers feel they belong to each other. If a lover takes the concept of ownership too far, it makes a good Thriller & Suspense problem, a woman in peril novel, or the motive in a Mystery novel.

Devices such as the need to join or the need to break free can be used at the scene level.

Dick may be wrestling with divided loyalties: go to a cousin’s wedding or beg off to chase a clue or meet his dream girl at a public appearance she is making. It also works as an antagonist’s scene dilemma. He can be a mob boss whose presence is expected at a meeting with his second and third in command, but his instincts tell him something is up and that a bust will go down, so he squiggles out of it or does not show up. His minions will not be happy.

Dick’s religious beliefs may keep him from taking a necessary action at scene level. He can wrestle with whether or not it is okay to make an exception, just this once.

Dick may be sick of the idiots populating his tennis club, so he does something to overcome a scene obstacle that will result in his expulsion. The scene accomplished two things: freed him of the ties that were choking him and gained him the clue, evidence, knowledge, etc. that he needed to overcome the scene goal. A further complication could be that those idiots like him so much they ignore the infraction. Dick will have to come up with an even bigger violation to earn his freedom.

This conflict works in any genre. For these and other obstacles that create conflict, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in print or E-book version.

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