Aspiring Young Writers’ Group: Conflict, of interest



Challenges, struggles, tension, adversity. These are just some of the features that define conflict, the writing ingredient that’s on all of our minds today. I’ve often found it’s importance has flown a bit under my radar at times, and when it hasn’t it’s been difficult to nail.


So once again, the whole shebang’s back together for another writers’ room and this time we’re graced with the presence of our occasional fourth member, Rob. Though not a contributor on the writing front today, he’s always got some handy insights and opinions whenever we’re down this track.


This time around, Amy starts us off by reading through a sizable interaction in her work, this being between Amber and another recently deceased character named Harry, one of her childhood adoptive siblings now an adult.


“This guy sure doesn’t take much seriously,” is the first comment I make in the discussion. “no wonder he ended up dead. Is there anything he’s afraid of?”


“Yeah, there’s a real contrast with Harry and Amber,” adds Jim. “Almost like he’s purpose made to set her on edge, being all carefree and irresponsible. He’s really aggravating the whole cautious sensible thing she has going on.”


“That’s just the kind of guy Harry’s become,” says Amy. “All her brothers and sisters went a bit astray in different ways after she died.”


The main conflict of Amy’s story is Amber’s struggle against the pattern of dire instances that’s one by one seeing her siblings end up like her. Here though however, the struggle is one character’s inability to deal with another.


“This guy’s a bit like you Rob,” says Jim. “Chill about everything, always finding the fun side to things. Makes Ben look a bit like Amber.”


I know he means well, but he’s got a point there.


Still, we all find that the friction in Amy’s latest offering makes for some riveting stuff to listen to.


Next, we all have another go dividing up the parts in Jim’s piece for another reading, this time helped by an extra voice with a real flair for such (Rob’s a drama student). We read through a bit of the way, coming to a character Rob is voicing that Jim states is also based on him.


“I’m not really into drama. I much prefer acting,” is the line that sends us all into laughing so hard we end up stalling a good while.


“Hey man, I was never not going to use that line of yours in my script. It’s just too good, even for a writer to come up with,” Jim states, referring back to several months ago.


We continue, but the laughs continue to keep our seriousness in a very wobbly state. Amidst dissecting Jim’s brilliant comedic dialogue, the conflict becomes somewhat buried. Most of it however is evident between the scripts protagonist Hugh, and its antagonist Stephany.


“Maybe you’d have a better reputation if you were nicer to people,” I say, playing the role of Hugh.


“Nicer?!,” Amy playing Stephany says. “All I know is that you’ve destroyed years of work – my record here was spotless! Spotless! Until you. You’re the spot.”


“Better a spot than a human stain,” Hugh retorts.


We’re pretty much at the end of the script, but these two characters have been at each other like this for most of its length, the boilover being well behind us.


“You’ve really nailed Stephany,” Rob comments. “The girl’s insufferable.”


“Didn’t we all know someone like that in school though?” says Jim. “That pest who had to always be the best at everything and have everyone know it.”


What he describes is hardly what I’d call conflict, but I definitely see how it provokes such.


With the time we’ve gone through there’s only a little left for mine, though deservedly so given my small output this week. The scene in question is a prison break. Some action to break up the many conversations.


“The tension in yours could use a bit more escalating,” Rob says.


Jim agrees. “Yeah, you do have a tendency to keep things a little too civil. Sometimes you’ve really got to turn it up.”


Guess that’s another side effect of my neuroticism. Always being a bit tentative.


“I’d agree, but it’s definitely there in some of your earlier stuff,” Amy points out.


“Yeah, you really nailed it in those couple of scenes the other week,” says Jim. “You should have been there Rob. That scene with all the flirting was nowhere near as subtle as what he imagined, but man was it gripping. And it did give us all a good laugh.”


Maybe the lesson there is not to take everything so seriously. The times I’ve done this often seem to come across better.


So once again we finish up on another productive writers’ room. With Jim taking a trip after our next one we’re all particularly set on making our next session especially productive.


“It’s no excuse for the rest of you to slack off,” Jim says. “I’ll keep sending regular updates, and I expect the same from you guys too.”




Read Ben Kirkby’s Aspiring Writers’ Group columns HERE.




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About Ben Kirkby

Ben moved to Melbourne at the start of 2016 from country NSW. Shortly after declaring his intent to live in Melbourne permanently, his uncle Sam suggested "If you're going to live here you've got to get along to the footy at some point". After seeing his first football match (Hawthorn vs Sydney, round 9 2016) Ben's interest in AFL took off in a way highly unexpected by both himself and his extended family. Ben's team alignment was uncertain for a time, seeing an interest taken primarily toward Hawthorn during much of the 2016 season, but during the finals series he declared his intent to follow the way of his cousins and uncle and become a Richmond Supporter, primarily on the grounds of them being the team he most wanted to see win, among a long list of other reasons. Needless to say the following year saw him very happy with his choice.


  1. G’day Ben

    All the best to you and your fellow writers.

    Looking forward to hearing more about them and their work – perhaps they would like to publish something here at the Almanac (even a snippet!). We have published numerous short stories over the years.

    All the best to you and the crew as you deal with this frustrating art form.


  2. Another winner Ben. So glad that some of my dialogue resonated with you in an unexpected way! These pieces are like being a fly on the wall during our sessions.

  3. Jim and Ben

    Given the theme of this one is ‘conflict’, I was just wondering whether you guys (the whole group) have ever descended into any decent disagreements/arguments/barneys/assaults?

    Or is it all very civil?


  4. Yes, I'm that Amy says

    I like the comparison of Amber and Harold with you and Rob, I didn’t mean for it but damn, that’s so true! Whoops. Keep up the great work Ben.

  5. Ben The Artist says

    Thanks for asking, John.
    So in answering your question I’d say we’re always pretty civil with the writing talk, perhaps even to an uncharacteristic extent.
    The only time where there’s a good argument is usually over different stuff. Often petty or trivial kinds of things that are also usually a good laugh, like musical tastes, where to get dinner or the rules of calling shotgun. All in good fun of course.


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