Sunday, December 21, 2008

Creating conflict

I'm going to talk about plotting for a bit, and what I've learned so far. To most accomplished writers out there, this is going to be obvious stuff. To a newbie like me, it's an element of storytelling that I always have to keep in the back of my mind.

The simplest, most standard plot involves a protagonist who faces almost insurmountable odds to achieve a goal, and he either overcomes those odds to succeed or (less often) does not overcome the odds and fails. In the story I'm currently working on, I use a subset of that. My protagonist's greatest desire and greatest fear come into conflict, and she must choose either to achieve the former or avoid the latter -- but not both. When thinking about many of my favorite short stories and novels, this structure is there.

I was realizing this afternoon, though, that I unintentionally have set up many of my stories that way. In one, the protagonist must face his greatest fear in order to achieve his greatest desire. In another, the protagonist faces her greatest fear as a consequence of achieving her greatest desire. (In a side note, in the first story I wrote, the protagonist had neither a greatest desire nor greatest fear, which is probably a big hunk of the problem with her character.)

I have yet to sell any of those stories, but I figure that as I started this only six months ago, I have nothing to worry about. I have two rejections so far, and two stories out and another one just about ready for submission. We'll see how they do.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bad news for Denver news

Scripps Howard announced yesterday that it's putting the Rocky Mountain News up for sale. If no buyer is secured by mid-January, Scripps will consider other options. The common opinion seems to be that "other options" means shutting down the paper.

Now I don't work for the News. I work one floor up, at The Denver Post. The rivalry between those two newspapers has been long and sometimes bitter. You'd think the Post staff would have thrown a newsroom party at the news that we have, essentially, won the war.

You'd be wrong.

Post staffers are sad and worried. Sad because all the grunts who put out the Rocky each day -- the reporters, photographers, editors, designers, etc. -- will lose their jobs, and no one wants to see that happen. There's a respect, I think, for the Rocky staff. And we're worried because, well, But For the Grace of God Go Us. It could have easily been the Post on the rocks. We're not doing great financially -- few newspapers are -- but we dodged the bullet this time. We might not next time.

I really really hope that someone comes along and rescues the Rocky because those people on the fifth floor don't deserve to watch their hard work go under, and because competition between the Rocky and Post has made both papers better.