Weeks 7 & 8 assignment: Conflict!

Our readings in Prose and Wood Weeks 7 & 8 are about detail, something we’ve already looked at carefully in our reading of Flaubert. In our fourth assignment, in addition to enriching our fictions with shrewdly chosen detail, I’d like us to focus on a critical elements of any story, but especially the short one: conflict. Study the conflicts particularly between mother and daughter in The Corrections (read an additional few pages, through p. 117, if you haven’t already) and between Rabbit and Janice in Rabbit at Rest. In each case, notice how much tension rises to the surface in the attempt NOT to fight, in the effortful patience and forbearance with which these family members treat one another. Craft a story in which seemingly innocuous statements bristle with hostility, with long-repressed resentments, with passive aggression of every intensity. The fight may or may not erupt into open conflict in your story, but that’s up to you–just make us wait for it.

Before you write, sketch a conflict history between the characters. This is not part of the story proper, but do share it with your editor and with me. What’s the original source of bitterness the characters are working out in this scene? Why can’t they express it plainly to one another so that it must emerge through these pent-up skirmishes? This sketch doesn’t have to be extensive or carefully composed, but let it be substantial enough to spur your characters through at least 1500 words that will probably be predominantly dialogue, and that will leave them and the relationship and the underlying conflict in some perhaps subtle way transformed.

Reminder: good poets borrow, great poets steal.


Acacia Mays (Ronni Shalev)
Alona Cohen (Wilma Ewerhart)
Irina Bunčić (Loulou Oudshoorn)
Joel Dombrower (Lindsay Parkhowell)
Lola Jalbert (Olorin Etemad-Lehmer)


Loulou Oudshoorn (Irina Bunčić)
Lindsay Parkhowell (Joel Dombrower)
Olorin Etemad-Lehmer (Lola Jalbert)
Ronni Shalev (Acacia Mays)
Wilma Ewerhart (Alona Cohen)

Weeks 7 & 8 assignment: Conflict!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s