Wednesday, 7 July 2021

#WEP #WINNER's #GUESTPOST – Steph Wolmarans' Writing with Change in Mind

Hello everyone! Renée here! 

As you all know, the winner of the WEP Challenge gets the opportunity to write a guest post. Steph Wolmarans' story Storm of the Water Dragon moved its readers from hopelessness to hope. As our judge, Nick Wilford said: "Very imaginative and otherworldly. Impressive world-building in this short piece."

Today Steph has addressed Writing with Change in Mind. So take it away, Steph!

 Writing with Change in Mind


When I taught writing to elementary students I used to tell them no one would care about Cinderella if her father never died, or her stepsisters were really nice to her. People want to read about conflict, otherwise what is the point?


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I also taught them to look for a change in the character from beginning to end when reading stories. Did the character want to change? What happened to their feelings?


I had plenty of time to think about these lessons while I worked on my manuscript this past year. I focused a lot on the story arc, character arc, and moral arc. Simply put, arcs occur because of change. The conflict causes a change or prevents it. Whichever occurs is generally the opposite of the main character’s original desire or goal.  


I feel like this is more relevant to readers today than ever before. It seems like everyone has “change” on the brain. Some fight for change, others fight to prevent it. Humans have accomplished so much by adapting to change, and preserved truly beautiful cultures by refusing to change. No matter which side of change we find ourselves on, we are generally very passionate about it.


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I think because of the recent intensification of change, authors must also step up their game. Perhaps it is my personal preference, but I tend to relate better with characters in extreme situations. For this reason, I prefer speculative fiction. It provides a lens through which I can contemplate reality. The best authors create elaborate, but tidy worlds that allow readers to see the conflict with crystal clarity. The result is an emotional attachment to the characters caught in the arc of change.


I was recently stuck in a car dealer waiting room awaiting repairs. I worked on my manuscript to pass the time, but the other woman was glued to the HGTV episode. In the show, wealthy celebrities were “giving back” by fixing the yard at their friend's house. The writers for the show pulled her in by discussing all the hardships this “poor” woman had suffered with the loss of her mother and husband in the past year and her move to a smaller mansion. Each time they mentioned these hardships, the woman in the waiting room would utter a sound of sympathy. I could not help but think she was crazy for caring about this woman. Is that outdoor kitchen and luxury spa pool really going to make her life better? Obviously, the recent events in her life were tragic. If the same happened to me, I would be devastated. But I had a lot of trouble attaching to the story. They could build an entire subdivision of tiny homes for refugee families for what they spent on this woman’s backyard. Is it just me? My age or personality?  


For me, these writers failed to create a relatable story. Personally, the show would have been more enjoyable without the “story” part. It was reality TV, but it was a very narrow view of reality. That is why I like stories that push readers beyond reality. I think authors have a big challenge to keep up with the drastic changes in our world today. The next generation of readers may have trouble relating to the conflicts of yesterday. What do you think?


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Steph Wolmarans is a speculative fiction author. Her short story,
The Utten Mission, was recently published in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology Dark Matter:  Artificial. Steph’s flash fiction, short stories, and novel updates can be found at https://www.teasighcreate.com/.


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Thank you so much for your guest post, Steph. How about you, readers? Is conflict key in your writing?


We'd love for you to tweet this post or share it to Facebook or your favorite social media site.


@StephWolmarans #WEPGREATWAVE #WEPwinner #guestpost Writing with Change in Mind https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2021/07/wep-winners-guestpost-steph-wolmarans.html @DeniseCCovey, @YolandaRenee, @LGKeltner, @OlgaGodim #amwriting #writingchalleng

@StephWolmarans #WEPGREATWAVE #WEPwinner Storm of the Water Dragon #guestpost Writing with Change in Mind https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2021/07/wep-winners-guestpost-steph-wolmarans.html @DeniseCCovey, @YolandaRenee, @LGKeltner, @OlgaGodim #amwriting #writingchallenge

@StephWolmarans #WEPGREATWAVE #WEPwinner Storm of the Water Dragon #guestpost Writing with Change in Mind https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2021/07/wep-winners-guestpost-steph-wolmarans.html @DeniseCCovey, @YolandaRenee, @LGKeltner, @OlgaGodim #amwriting #writingchallenge

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Our next challenge will be here before we know it! We hope many of you will consider joining us for our August challenge. Freedom of Speech! We'll post about it on August 1.


See you all there!



22 comments:

  1. Congratulations Steph.
    I do like to read about conflict and change - but the characters have to change in a congruent way.
    And I too would not have been engrossed in the television program. The cult of celebrity is not one I subscribe too - or the cult of privilege.

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    1. Succinctly put, Sue. One top writer's advice is to get your character up a tree and throw rocks at them. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict.

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    2. I do too! Conflict is key!
      Celebrity not so much!

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  2. Thanks Steph. Your post reinforces a universal modern truth about writing.

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    1. Ditto, Steph. Great advice for all writers!

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  3. Hi,
    All I can say is thank you and I agree. I am a romance writer and my heart's desire is to write stories that challenge peoples' perspective of how they see things so that they can move toward change.
    Wishing you all the best.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. We wish you all the best too Pat. I must prowl around and see what you're up to.

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  4. Fascinating post. But I think it is not just generations that see different challenges and conflicts. It is cultural as well. I came from Russia. I lived half my life in the Soviet State with its dictatorship and its complete disregard for individuality.
    Here, in Canada, I found that most Western people don't understand the challenges and conflicts the Soviet citizens encountered in their everyday lives. The Western people can't imagine the depth of despair the lack of freedom brought to the Russians. Or our fatalistic acceptance of it. And even after we emigrate, many former Russians flounder in the freedom of the West. They don't know what to do with it or how to live in it. It takes time and a change of perspective to adapt to the new reality.
    As a consequence, the conflicts the former Russians struggle with are often different from the conflicts their local neighbors face.

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    1. Very true! I do face some of this with my in-laws. My husband grew up in South Africa and there are a number of things we see differently (particularly poverty).

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    2. It's certainly true that different cultures see things differently. Growing up in a totalitarian state must lead to culture shock when you move to a free country like Canada. Which is why we all need to be gentle with each other. No surprise that we have trouble connecting with a culture completely the opposite to ours. As you say, it takes time.

      And therein lies the conflict.

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  5. Those kind of shows that you see on HGTV don't try to hook people by showing conflict, they just try to make us feel like we have a stake in the character's happiness. If they can get us to relate to these people, whether it makes sense or not, then they've won half the battle with the viewers.

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    1. Yes, and in a way writers model that relatability in that some of us like characters that readers can relate to in some way, however small.

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    2. You're exactly right: "have a stake in the character's happiness." I think our perception of the character can also affect whether we care if they are happy. Writers must effectively show who their characters are.

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  6. Conflict, of some sort, is absolutely central to a story. We can care about characters without it, I think. But we don't end up caring that much about the story. Conflict doesn't have to be huge and ugly, though. Sometimes it's the little things.

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    1. I like your point about conflict not having to be huge, Rebecca. But it has to be there. I often think about it - is life full of conflict?

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    2. I think the little things are definitely important. How much characters struggle makes a difference, too. There is so much diversity there.

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  7. Great post! Characters who don't grow and change are boring. If we don't see that potential for growth early on, we probably won't finish the story! (Or maybe that's just me!)

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    1. I agree. The writer should be making some sort of promise to the reader before too long. (Even if it will be broken!)

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  8. I don't know about tv shows, because I've stopped watching them! So I'm really out of touch with what the 'average' viewer likes.
    But will readers relate to bygone conflicts? I think if anyone checks their history books, they'll find plenty of examples of conflicts just like those of today - greedy leaders twisting the rules and favouring the toadying few, whilst people rise up, or not...

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  9. Conflict is crucial in fiction, it underpins the change in characters. Without that the story flags and ultimately fails to engage. Olga makes a great point about conflict and change depending on the cultural milieu - writer, characters, readers as well. Thanks for this timely reminder.

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  10. I remember one director (local theatre) saying that the play was about the character that had changed from beginning to end. (for good or bad) The show was Bus Stop and although it seemed to be about the young 'couple' the one who really changed was the 'older guy'. That seems like a good definition/goal for a writer's main character. And something for writers' to keep in mind. At the same time, you are right, we need to want to 'cheer' for that character in someway, no matter what their faults or flaws. I do find that there are some clever writers who start with 'ugly' character that we come to root for because we learn their backstory or they change in ways we are happy to see. The 'bad boy becomes good' redemption story. There isn't much new under the sun, but we can keep trying to disguise it. :)

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