Writing Superman-Level Conflict When You Live A Clark Kent Life

This may come as a shock, but many writers do not lead lives of adventure and peril.

Years ago, I was in a workshop with Pat Murphy, excellent writer and teacher, co-founder of the Tiptree Awards. (And her Wikipedia entry includes the line “See also: Pataphysics.”)┬áHere’s an audio interview wherein she talks, among other things, about finding magic in the everyday.

Anyway, in the workshop she described one of her challenges as she started out: She’d write stories where her characters just sat around in coffeeshops, talking.

I’ve written those stories, too.

If your typical experience of conflict is, say, budget meetings, how do you recalibrate your brain to write magical battles?

Hack the tools of bureaucracy.

Clark Kent wallpaper 1

Does your organization have a code of conduct? How about policies? I bet it does.

Read them. (You’re supposed to read them anyway, right?)

Then reverse them.

Anything an organization forbids is a source of conflict for you to deploy in fiction. All those things you agree not to do in order for your workplace to be pleasant and productive? Your characters can do them all.

Or perhaps you’re in the position of evaluating someone’s performance — or having them evaluate yours — with a dire, multi-page, multiple-choice form perhaps called something like an Employee Assessment Tool. (My keywords bring all the spammers to the yard.)

Every question on those forms can open up a story about what happens when someone does not act in ways esteemed by the form-creators.

Writing something non-contemporary? Reverse-engineer some etiquette manuals.

Mild-mannered writers, feel free to quietly share more conflict-generating ideas!

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