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Agendas as a source of conflict

One of the best story decongestants is to take stock of agendas. By the time you find yourself bogging down and getting nervous about where your story is going, you have also added a number of characters to your cast.

If you are like just about every other writer, those characters tend to be more in like helpers, partners, facilitators, sidekicks, or even smaller versions of one of your principal characters. As such, they tend to have more compatible and complementary agendas than antagonistic or complicating agendas when held up to the agendas of your protagonist and antagonist.

Do these two things to get the flow going again:

1. Write down the name of every character and next to it that character's agenda. What does that character want?

2. Then go back through those agendas and mark those that are supportive or present no obstacle to your protagonist and the same to your antagonist.

You will suddenly discover there's a bit too much cooperation and normal/non-conflicting motion in your story.

Don't be afraid to make characters needy, ambitious, selfish, self-centered, or protective to realign agendas so that character relationships are far more tension, friction, or conflict-filled than cooperative and helpful.

Misalign your agendas, don't merge them into the traffic flow. Put characters on a collision course and even let those with compatible agendas at least have a different sense of urgency or difference of opinion on how to get somewhere or get something done. The is the source of conflict, and conflict is the currency of novelists.

Watch what happens to your story then.

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