Putting Characters into Conflict

In real life, I don’t like conflict. I don’t like arguing with people, I don’t like fighting and I don’t like confrontation. In fact, I actively avoid it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut when it comes to writing, there’s no getting around it. There has to be conflict. There has to be two opposing forces pulling against each other.

To create conflict in my stories, I have to hurt my character’s feelings, I have to put them in difficult situations, in physical and emotional danger. I have to be mean to them … I have to do all these things to make readers care about them.

So if conflict doesn’t come naturally to you, how do you put your characters in a conflict situation?

When I was doing my Professional Writing and Editing Diploma at Victoria University, author and teacher extraordinaire, Sherryl Clark said to us, “Think of the worst thing that can happen to your character, and make something even worse happen to them.”

And that’s exactly how you get to the depth of your character and who they are. How your character handles conflict affects what happens next in your story, and how readers relate to them.

So if you want conflict in your story, you need to know your characters, what they are fighting for, and who they are fighting against.

To create conflict, one character’s views and goals must collide with another character’s.

There are two kinds of conflict – external and internal – and you need them both in your story.

External conflict

External conflict is what happens outside your character and internal conflict is the struggle that goes on inside them.

External conflict is what makes your story exciting. It’s where the action in your story comes from. It’s the obstacles and events your character must overcome.

Internal conflict

Internal conflict is what enables the reader to feel like they know your character. Internal conflict is what makes the reader care about your character and what happens to them. It’s what makes the reader invest emotionally in your story.

Internal conflict can be the disparity between what a character thinks they want and what they really want. It can be caused by your character having to choose what’s right and wrong.

In forthcoming posts I’ll be blogging more about conflict.

2011becket_med-4I’ll also be presenting a workshop in Brisbane at the CYA Conference on 2nd July where I’ll be providing some practical tips on how to put your characters into conflict. Bookings for the conference can be made through the CYA website.

Look forward to seeing you there.

If you can’t make it, I look forward to seeing you back here at DeeScribe Writing.

Do you struggle being mean to your characters or are you one of those people who loves putting their characters in difficult situations? Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing 🙂



Ever been overwhelmed by too much feedback on your writing?

I’m lucky to belong to four amazing writer’s groups (one is online).

One of my groups meets for four hours every week, and it’s fabulous. We’re all serious about our craft, and work hard not just on our own writing but on helping each other achieve our goals.

As well as good writing, we also appreciate good food :)

As well as good writing, we appreciate good food 🙂

We’re an ecclectic mix of novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, short story writers, poets and YA and kidlit authors. Having such a diverse group means that feedback is always unique and fresh.

But in the early days of our group, the feedback could sometimes be overwhelming.

When it’s an early draft and you get pages and pages of ‘track changes’ it can be a bit disheartening and sometimes confusing – especially when those ‘track changes’ are contradictory.

Our group discussed this at length and talked about how we could make the feedback more constructive.

We all agreed that you don’t actually need a detailed edit on your first draft. All you need to know is the big picture stuff … things like, does the reader engage with the character, does the story keep the reader turning the pages, are there logic problems or inconsistencies?


So now when we’re doing a first draft, that’s exactly what we ask for – only the feedback we need at that point in the writing process.

In fact, no matter what stage we are in our work, we always ask for specific feedback.

This has two major benefits. The first one is that it makes us think critically about our own writing. The second benefit is that it allows us to focus on revising certain aspects of our story rather than being overwhelmed by the feeling that that everything is wrong with every part of the story.

Different drafts really do require different kinds of feedback.

It’s also just as important to give positive and complimentary responses to a writer’s work. This helps them know what’s working in the story so they can keep doing it.

2011becket_med-4I’m going to be discussing giving and receiving effective feedback in more detail at my workshop at the upcoming CYA Conference in Brisbane on July 2.

If you have special critiquing methods/processes that work for you and your writer’s group, I’d love to hear about them.

Feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and critiquing 🙂


My Workshops at CYA Conference – First Page Feedback Opportunities

For those who aren’t familiar with the CYA Conference, it’s one of my favourite conferences for creators of kid lit and YA books in Australia.

2011becket_med-4It’s a vibrant, friendly event held in Brisbane, and it’s a great chance to network, have your work assessed by industry professionals and learn all about what’s going on in the kid lit/YA publishing world.

Now in it’s 11th year, the conference is “aimed as professional development for new and established writers and illustrators of Children’s and Young Adult literature.”

Each year there are fabulous master classes and workshops conducted by authors, illustrators and industry professionals, and at the 2016 Conference on 2nd July (Something fun to do on election day), I’m thrilled to be presenting two workshops:

  1. Cast Your Characters Into Conflict – add conflict to your story and keep your readers turning the pages.
  2. Conquer Critiquing & Find Fabulous Feedback – learn how to give and receive feedback to take your writing to the next level. Tips on what to look for and what to do with the feedback you receive.


Wondering if the start of your manuscript is doing everything it should? Here’s your chance to get some helpful feedback.

Letters to Leonardo came third at the inaugural CYA competition for unpublished authors.

Letters to Leonardo came third at the inaugural CYA competition for unpublished authors.

We’ll be doing practical activities so I’m looking for the following writing samples to incorporate in my workshop, Conquer Critiquing and Find Fabulous Feedback at the CYA Conference:

1. First page of a chapter book, a Middle Grade novel and a YA novel
2. The first 3 to 5 pages of a picture book
3. A paragraph from you about what you don’t think is working in your story

To submit, you must be attending my workshop at the CYA conference. Unfortunately, we will only have time to workshop one piece of work from each category. email to: info@cyaconference.com with Dee’s Class in the header.

Bookings for the conference can be made through the CYA website. If you want an editor or agent appointment, you’d better get in quick. Appointment bookings close in 8 days.

Hope to see you at CYA. Even if you’re not attending one of my workshops, feel free to come and say, “Hi”.

Happy writing 🙂




Writer’s Conferences – When and Where Are They? How To Find Out About Them

Following my posts about Why Attend a Writer’s Conference and Preparing for a Writer’s Conference I recently had a question from a blog reader, “How do we find out about writer’s conferences?”

CYA Success stor

CYA Success stories 2015 conference

So today’s post is designed to give you some tips on where to start.

I also wanted to mention that there are a lot of writer’s festivals around too. These are great for being inspired by other writers, hearing how they write and learning about their work and what their favourite reads are/were, but I find that conferences are a usually a better place to meet and present your work to publishers and agents.

So conferences are the focus of today’s post.

Seeing as I write for children and young adults, I find that the best place to start for these conferences is The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Their website is divided into regions so you can click on any region around the world and it will take you to a specific page that has any upcoming conferences listed.



SCBWI Australia 2010

One way to find conferences that might be worth going to is to look at the genre you write in and then research organisations for writers in those genre. Some of these organisations host their own conferences, others can give you information about them through newsletters and websites.

For example, there are organisations for

  1. Romance Writers – Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America
  2. Speculative Fiction writers – Conflux, Clarion
  3. Horror writers – Horror Writers Association
  4. Crime writers – Australian Crime Writers Association, Sisters in Crime
  5. Children’s writers – Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators
  6. Comedy writers


Reading Matters Conference – Held every second year by the State Library of Victoria.

Check with your state or national library – they may be able to give you information about upcoming conferences.


ACT Writers Centre

Booranga Writers Centre
New England Writers Centre
NSW Writers Centre
Hunter Writers Centre
Northern Rivers Writers Centre
South Coast Writers Centre
Sydney Writers’ Centre
Varuna – The Writers’ House

NT Writers Centre

Queensland Writers Centre

SA Writers Centre

Tasmanian Writers Centre

Writers Victoria

Writing WA
Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre

If you’re overseas – for example in the US, google writer’s centres in your state, area or town.


1. ASA – Australian Society of Authors newsletters – There may be an author organisation in your country that produces a publication that will list conferences in it.

2. PASS IT ON – e-zine for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

3. BUZZ WORDS – for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverBEST CONFERENCES I HAVE BEEN TO

There are lots of conferences I haven’t been to that I’m sure are fantastic, but I just wanted to finish by mentioning ones I have been to that have been extremely beneficial to me.

My book, Letters to Leonardo was picked up by Walker Books after I pitched it at the SCBWI Australia Conference in Sydney. I recently attended the CYA Conference in Brisbane and received three manuscript requests from publishers and one from an agent. I attended the 40th Anniversary SCBWI LA conference and apart from being loads of fun it was a huge global networking experience.

If you’ve been to a great conference or have any other tips on how to find out about conferences, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)


10 Years of CYA

I attended the first CYA Conference in Brisbane ten years ago. My novel Letters to Leonardo had been shortlisted in their writing competition.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverLetters to Leonardo was published five years later, and five years on from that, I’ll be attending the tenth CYA Conference.

I haven’t been going to many conferences in Australia lately due to family commitments, but I’ve been busy writing, and am now ready to submit.

When you have submission ready manuscripts is a great time to go to a conference like CYA. In Australia there are a limited number of publishers willing to take on or even view submissions from new young adult and children’s writers and illustrators.

Conferences like CYA give you a chance to meet these people and get your work in front of them.

At this year’s CYA Conference there are 8 publishers and 3 agents available to pitch to. Unfortunately Penguin and Harper Collins are fully booked already but there are plenty more.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.42.19 pmEven if you don’t have something ready to submit, there are still plenty of reasons to attend this conference. I personally can’t wait for Morris Gleitzman’s extended Master Class.

There’s also a publishers panel about first pages, and workshops by amazing illustrator, Sarah Davis and talented authors like Kaz Delaney, Meredith Costain and Paul Collins.

CYA is a huge day of information gathering, networking and being inspired. Check out the full program here.

Let me know if you’re going and I’ll see you there:)

Happy writing:)


P.S. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about the fabulous SCBWI Europolitan – I learnt so much.


Enjoying a laugh with writerly friends Marie Alfaci, Claire Saxby, Sheryl Gwyther, Elaine Ouston, Julie Nickerson and Kath Battersby

Very few children’s authors become wealthy from their writing, but it is an industry rich with wonderful people and great friendships. I was reminded of this on the weekend when I attended the CYA Conference in Brisbane.

Queensland author, Sheryl Gwyther and her husband, Ross welcomed writers from all over Australia into their home. (Thanks Sheryl and Ross – Chateau Gwyther is always a great place to stay:-)

I spent an amazing weekend, laughing, brainstorming and sharing with other authors; knowing that I am not alone – that others share my love of children’s literature – that others share the ‘ups and downs’ of working in an industry where rejections are plentiful and acceptances are few and far between and must be celebrated with relish.

On Friday night, we attended a function, Four on the Floor at Black Cat Books Paddington featuring Julie Nickerson, Aleesah Darlison, Peter Carnavas and Oliver Phommavanh.

Oliver’s hilarious talk about his new book, Thai-riffic inspired us to dine afterwards at a nearby Thai restaurant.

Illustrator, Jo Thomspon set up a gorgeous display for The Glasshouse launch.

Saturday was full on at CYA Conference where I launched Sheryl Gwyther’s hot new book Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper and Jo Thompson and Paul Collins stunning new PB, The Glasshouse.

I also attended and was inspired by sessions and workshops with Kate Forsyth, Gabrielle Wang, Prue Mason and Chris Morphew. I love hearing how other authors work and came away from each session feeling as if I had learned something valuable or heard something that would help me decide future direction/revisions to my current WIP.

The hardest part was coming away feeling so inspired and not having the time to write until I got home again.


Sunday at CYA was Hatchlings day. From about 9.00am enthusiastic young writers aged 8-16 started trickling through the door, eyes alight with excitement and perhaps a few nerves.

I was very excited at the prospect of being able to do my Heroes and Villains workshop with a whole new group of young writers. And it was wonderful.

We talked about stereotyped heroes and villains and what makes a well rounded character. The kids had two photos as a starting point and worked on developing a character based on each picture; one hero and one villain or two villains if they preferred.

As well as interviewing each character to find out more about them, they looked at the relationship between the two and how they knew each other.

It was so much fun. It was also interesting to see how quietly and intensely they worked at making each character unique and interesting.

Unfortunately time was limited so they didn’t get a chance to put their characters into conflict, but right at the start of the workshop they got to act out their own Hero vs Villain scenario.

All in all it was another inspirational CYA conference. Thanks to Tina, Ally and crew for all your hard work in bringing together Australian children’s writers and illustrators and other industry professionals in such a fun and inspiring way.

And it was so great that young writers could share the experience this year.

Happy writing:-)



Something to crow about

Back in July I did a post about why it pays to enter writing contests and competitions and how you can use them to hone your craft.

I’m very excited to report that last weekend I won the Published Author Section of the CYA competition for my YA manuscript, Cutting The Ice.

It’s an amazing feeling to have your writing recognised and appreciated by colleagues and industry professionals. But the main reason I entered this particular competition was because the judges provide comprehensive feedback for every single entry.

My Cutting the Ice manuscript was finished, but I had an instinctive feeling that someone wasn’t quite right with it…that my main character had a bit too much angst and aggression to inspire empathy in the reader.

And I was having trouble identifying exactly what it was that made my character unsympathetic. So I was thrilled to discover that winning the competition meant receiving a crit from the final judge, Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing.

From his detailed feedback it was clear that he had the same concerns about the manuscript – and the best part was that he offered suggestions on how to fix it.

I'm 'all ears' when it comes to writing feedback

The more experienced I become as a writer, the more I realise how hard it is to be objective about your own work – to stand back from it and pick out the problems and even if you identify the issues, it can be hard to come up with solutions.

I think it’s human nature. We fall in love with our characters and the beauty of how we have strung our  words together on the page. It’s difficult to step back and say to ourselves, ‘yes these words are beautiful, but they are not relevant to the story so DELETE THEM’.

That’s why competitions with feedback can be so useful. So if you have an opportunity to get someone to crit your work…especially an experienced author, publisher or editor…grasp it with both hands.

Thanks to my CYA win, Cutting The Ice is moving forward again. Whether this award ultimately leads to publication remains to be seen, but from the judge’s feedback I received I have learned some important things about structure and character development, and identifying issues with my own work.

I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Happy writing:-)