Margie Lawson

Make your writing soar


Killing It with Conflict

Conflict. Conflict. Conflict.

We’ve heard it, we know it, we’ve gotta have it, but too often, agents, editors, critique partners, and editors scream, “Where is the conflict? We need to feel the tension” And worse. “There is no conflict in this story.” 

Even now, I hear heads thunking. I hear the cries of, “Why?” and how? I can see writers tearing through their manuscripts as they search for the car-chase scenes, as they point out the murders, the deaths, the losses, the heartbreak. As far away as a little island in the Mediterranean, the shouts echo. “How can anyone say there is no conflict here?”

Well, sadly, murder doesn’t make conflict/tension. Sadly, no matter how much you cry or your characters cry, it doesn’t necessarily mean tension fills the page. Not even a scroll out of Smokey and the Bandit car chase scenes across several state lines ensures a tension-filled manuscript.

“What? How? Why?” you say. “What can I possibly do?” Never fear, Killing it with Conflict is here.

Welcome to Killing It With Conflict

In this one-month interactive course, we’ll not only tackle conflict on many levels but give writers a chance to develop conflict in their own stories.

In one month we’ll:

  • Understanding what conflict is and isn’t
  • Delving into the foundations of conflict
  • Implementing tips for structuring conflict for maximum impact
  • Using and expanding conflict in all Acts
  • Creating conflict in dialogue, setting, and scenes
  • Discover tips, tricks, and tools for weaving conflict throughout story

Full of practical tips and interactive lectures, students will have plenty of opportunities to practice theory by submitting work and getting feedback from fellow writers and me.

So come on, and let’s rock our conflict.

Lesson Plan

Week One:

Lecture 1:  Conflict Basics

  • What conflict isn’t
  • What conflict is
  • Why conflict is so important
  • The three layers of conflict
  • What makes a good read?
  • Know your characters and power up your conflict.
  • Introduce yourself and your characters to the group

Lecture 2: The core of conflict

  • Understanding where story conflict comes from
  • Pre-dating your conflict
  • Discovering your conflict core
  • Developing your conflict core

Lecture 3: Developing your now story conflict

  • Strong objectives make for strong conflict
  • The importance of conflict focus
  • Stronger whys make for stronger conflict
  • Developing your story's forward motion to bring out conflict

Week Two:

Lecture 4: Where conflict comes from

  • Conflict comes from stakes
  • Everyone must die
  • The three types of death-stakes
  • What kind of death/s will your character face?
  • Why do the death stakes make us care?
  • Building your character’s death stakes to add tension and conflict

Lecture 5: Story is more than just a protagonist

  • The point-of-view character is not enough
  • Types of opposition
  • Using opposition in multiple ways
  • The difference between antagonist and villain
  • Building your oppositional forces
  • Loving your antagonist/s
  • The more, the merrier when it comes to oppositional forces

Lecture 6: The vital aspect of oppositional forces

  • What binds your character to the story?
  • The importance of bonding agents
  • The types of bonding agents
  • What to do when characters can walk away 

Week Three:

Lecture 7: Conflict from the beginning

  • Discover why it is important to start with conflict
  • How to start with conflict
  • First-line conflict
  • Before the inciting incident conflict
  • Bridge conflict

Lecture 8: First-page conflict

  • Starting strong
  • Deadly backstory
  • Getting characters in action
  • Creating the first scene from the first page
  • Explore first-page conflict in other writers and your WIP

Lecture 9: Meso level conflict

  • Scenes with conflict
  • Identifying goalless scenes
  • Understanding weak-goal scenes
  • Develop strong scene goals that move your character and your story forward.

Week Four:

Lecture 10: Something must happen

  • From goal to action
  • From action to conflict
  • Exploring scene goal, motivation, conflict, and character change
  • Building rising action/tension
  • Making the reader care about the character

Lecture 11: Ending strong

  • Advancing external and internal lives of character
  • Developing layers of tension and change in a scene
  • Ending a scene or chapter on a must-flip-the-page

Lecture 12: Revise for conflict

  • Ten big ideas of how, where, and when you can add tension and conflict to your story

Lecture 13: Wrap up

Lecture 14: Extra special all yours

  • While throughout the course, writers should feel free to ask questions, discuss craft and get all-they-can from the course. Here is the chance for writers to ask those critical issues about anything writing-related.

With sixteen get-you-started assignments and multiple opportunities to share and further personal lectures, think-abouts and assignments, this course works from where you are to give and give and give you the tools you need to Kill it with Conflict.


Rhay Christou

Rhay Christou loves her dogs—Fredo and MoJoe—her teaching and writing. Making her home in a small village in Cyprus, when she is not wandering the National Park's trails, she uses her MFA in writing from Vermont College to share her knowledge and experience to cheerlead writers in creating their best stories. Since graduating, she has taught everything from creative writing to academic writing at the university level and writing workshops on the lovely island of Cyprus, in Greece and the USA.




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