Put Universal Conflict, Theme, and Emotions in Your Story


“Put Universal Conflict, Theme, and Emotions in Your Story” by Joan Y. Edwards

Editors ask: What is the universal theme of your story? information book? article? poem?

What do you answer? Are you clueless? Perhaps I can help.

I went to the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop in Oceanside, Oregon from July 12-16, 2010. I was sharing a poem I wrote. The editor wanted to know what was my poem’s universal theme. What I had thought was a universal theme was really not universal. It was regional or subjective. Therefore, I did research to find out more about the subject of universal theme.

But first you have to know what your conflict is. To gain more readership, make your conflict one of the universal conflicts listed below.
What does the main character want that he cannot get or have?
Conflicts:
Conflict adds excitement and suspense to the story.
What disturbed him beyond belief? What is the cause of distress for the main character?
What disrupts the business as usual of the main character?
What happens that the main character may try to ignore but cannot? He has to deal with this problem, internally and externally.

The internal conflict comes when the main character has to choose between two solutions to the problem: one moral, one immoral; one against his family rules; one against club’s rules; one that might hurt his friend, one that might hurt himself; one that might win the trust of his friends, one that would make him untrustworthy, one that makes him a liar, one that makes him tell the truth; mixed emotions add the tension to the story and make people want to read it to find out what the main character decided to do and what the consequences were for his actions….did it bring him closer to the goal, or bring him to his last breath.

Universal Conflicts
In a story you have one of the following universal conflicts played out:
Archetypes
Man against Man
Man against Self
Man against Nature
Man against Society
Man against Family
Man against the Universe
Man against Machines
Man against Institutions
Man against God
Man against Time
Man against Destiny

Never fear: Your story will probably fit into one of the universal conflicts listed above.

Goals Main Characters Struggle for, Search for, Need, Want
Acceptance, Admiration, Ambition, Approval, Attention, Authority, Awareness, Beauty. Belief, Belonging, Choices, Commitment, Community, Compassion, Cooperation, Courage, Dedication, Dream, Education, Equality, Experience, Faith, Family, Friendship, Godly love, Good, Gratitude, Heroes /Heroic Figures and Actions, Honesty, Honor, Hope, Human Relationships, Humor, Identity, Independence, Individuality, Innocence, Justice, Laughter, Law and Order, Live forever, Love, Loyalty, Marriage, Money, Morality,
Nature, Nonviolence, Passion, Peace, Perseverance, Possibilities, Power, Principles, Rebirth, Redemption, Religion, Respect, Responsibility, Romance, Sex, Spiritual enlightenment, Success, Taxes, Time, Trust, Truth, Understanding.

Forces Opposing Main Character, Keep Him from Reaching His Goal, Struggle Against, Has to Triumph Over, Doesn’t Want, Opposite of Goal, Perils of, What the Main Character Doesn’t want:
Accusation, Alienation, Ambition, Authority, Beliefs, Betrayal, Blame, Challenge, church, Coming of Age, Competition, Corruption, Country, County, Court, Crime, Death, Deception, Despair, Destruction, Disallusionment of adulthood, Disapproval, Distrust, Envy, Etiquette, Evil, Faith, Family, Fate, Fear, Forbidden, Freedom, Future, Government, Greed, Grief, Guilt, Handicap, Hatred, Hospital, Initiation, Injustice, Institutions, Jail, Jealousy, Justice, Lack of compassion, Lies, Loss, Materialism, Nation, Nature, Nature as dangerous, Oppression, Past, Power, Persecution, Poverty, Prejudice, Pride, Prison, Problems, Punishment, Rebelling, Rejection, Religion, Responsibility, Revenge, Rules, Sacrifice, Schools, Self-Doubt, Shame, Society, Taxes, Time, Town, Tragedy, Vengeance, Village, Vulnerability, War.

After you finish writing your story or when you’ve finished your outline, what has your main character learned from his conflict? What did the main character learn in his battle against one of the conflicts listed above? This is the theme. Make it a universal theme shared by all mankind, so that all of mankind will want to read your book.

The Universal Theme
The universal theme is the story’s (author’s) view about life and how people behave. It is the statement the story makes about society, human nature, or the human condition that the author wants to convey to readers. It’s an observation about life that can apply to any and everyone representing the conflicts, dreams, hopes, and fears across cultures and continents, and from generation to generation. It could be the moral to the story, a teaching, or an observation. It transcends race, gender, sexual preference, and creed. Some examples are love, peace, friendship, and other concepts about life.

Universal themes exist because people worldwide go through the common human experiences of being born, experiencing anguish and joy, and dying come from emotions and that touch and can apply to any and all cultures, genders, ages, sexual preference, creeds, geography, historical periods, and genres.

The universal theme is the story’s (author’s) view about life and how people behave in a particular situation. It is a statement the story makes about society, human nature, or the human condition through the author’s words and characters. The theme is universal when it transcends race, gender, sexual preference, creed. cultures, continents, and generations representing the conflicts, dreams, hopes, and fears such as: love, peace, friendship, and other concepts about life that can apply to any and everyone.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Conflict of Nature against death
You do not have to worry about dying and death. It’s a natural thing.

Law and Order Television Series by Dick Wolf
Conflict of Good over Evil – Dick Wolf presents both sides of the issues
Even with the latest technology and evidence, police and district attorneys do not always win their cases against evil.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Love against society, family, death
Love can be so passionate that one would prefer death to living without the loved one.

Here are links I went to find information about universal themes:
http://www.orangeusd.k12.ca.us/yorba/literary_elements.htm
http://www.life123.com/parenting/education/children-reading/12-most-common-themes-in-literature.shtml

http://www.dcmp.org/guides/9467.pdf

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081022125536AAzRGHD
http://www.episcopalacademy.org/FileBank/Eax_FileBank_FileName_9697_K051J82.pdf
http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/tccampa-65525-literary-themes-literature-education-ppt-powerpoint/
www.joyet.biz/downloads/Genres_vs_Themes.ppt

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_conclude_the_sentence_that_begins_’Universal_themes_in_literature_exist_because_people_worldwide’&alreadyAsked=1&rtitle=Universal_themes_in_literature_exist_because_people_worldwide

Universal Emotions -

Emotions Are Universal.

Put emotions in your story. It makes your characters come alive. One way to make your story have universal appeal is to add the tension of opposing emotions. We all feel mixed emotions every day. Should we do this? We shouldn’t do that. It’s smart to do this. How could I be so stupid? How could he be so naive? What’s the wisest choice? What are my choices? Do I get a choice? When a character has two or three choices and none of them are very good, it’s tension time for reading and living, and it makes the reader want to turn the page.

All people experience emotions. Putting believable emotions into your story will help it reach more readers.

Here are Paul Ekman’s Big Six Emotions
Anger
Disgust
Fear
Happiness
Sadness
Surprise

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions
Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions Robert Plutchik used the above six emotions and added two others below:
Acceptance
Anticipation

Ekman’s Eleven Other Basic Emotions
Amusement
Contempt
Contentment
Embarrassment
Excitement
Guilt
Pride in achievement
Relief
Satisfaction
Sensory pleasure
Shame

The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin gives nine emotions
Nine Emotions
Acceptance
Anger
Apathy
Courageousness
Fear
Grief
Lust
Peace
Pride

Nine States of Emotional Empowerment by Swati Chopra
http://www.lifepositive.com/Mind/Emotions/Nine_states_of_Emotional_empowerment92004.asp

Swati Chopra from New Delhi, India says the nine rasas are:
Distress (hunger, discomfort)
Happiness
Satisfaction

Love
Compassion
Awe
Peace
Laughter
Valour
Fear
Disgust
Anger

Here are websites with information about emotions:

http://library.thinkquest.org/25500/index2.htm Great gives text descriptions of body when feeling 6 basic emotions
http://www.clipartguide.com/_search_terms/feelings.html Great! Pictures matched with emotions
http://www.feelingfacescards.com/
http://www.face-and-emotion.com/dataface/emotion/expression.jsp
http://www.eqi.org/fw.htm
http://www.eqi.org/cnfs.htm
http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions

I hope you enjoyed my blog post. I hope I enlightened you, rather than confused you. Please let me know if I helped you make your writing appeal to more people, to make it more universally appealing. Capture this universal appeal and you’ll capture an editor’s heart!

If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, I would be honored if you would. The sixth person to subscribe to my blog after May 12, 2010 from the left hand column where it says, “Sign Me Up Here,” will receive a free paperback copy of my book, Flip Flap Floodle, a little duck who never gives up on his song. Don’t give up on your writing. Never Give Up on winning and resolving conflicts that come your way.

You are a published author in your mind, before you get that way on paper.  You can do it. Yes, you can.

Please write a comment below.
Sincerely,

Joan Y. Edwards
http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

Copyright 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.

16 Responses

  1. Joan,

    Wow! LOTS of information here! Thank you! I haven’t checked the links yet, but I will take a look at some of them. This is a post that I should reread and study section by section. Thanks again.

    Linda A.

    • Dear Linda, Thank you for writing. I’m glad that you believe this is a post you should read section by section. I hope it helps you get a step closer to publication by one of the big publishing houses.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

  2. Thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts. This is the essence of writing. It must mean something.

    Sharon

    • Dear Sharon, Thanks for writing. I’m glad you believe I caught the essence of writing. I hope my words help you gain the attention of one of the editors of the big publishing houses soon!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

  3. Hey, Joan! Great job! I’m going to check out all of the
    websites. Thanks for your hard work in finding all of the websites, too.
    THIS IS A GREAT SOURCE OF INFORMATION.

    Evonne B.

    • Dear Evonne, Thanks for your kind words. I hope my words lead you to publication success.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

  4. Wow! Lots of info here, Joan.

    Thanks,
    Jean

    • Dear Jean, Thanks for your “Wow!” comment. I hope the information helps you!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

  5. Joan,
    Thanks for the great information and all the useful links. What a great resource for upping the ante in plotting a story.
    JOY

    • Dear Joy, How thoughtful of you to leave such a sweet comment. I’m glad you think my blog post is a great resource for upping the ante on plotting a story. Good luck with your being published soon!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm

  6. I like how are you thinking…and I must confess I’m totally addicted to your articles!

    • Dear Ronn,
      Thanks for writing. Do something good for you today.
      Joan Y. Edwards
      http://www.joanyedwards.com

  7. I would like to express my thanks to the writer just for bailing me out of this situation. As a result of exploring through the world-wide-web and meeting tricks which are not powerful, I figured my entire life was well over. Existing devoid of the answers to the problems you have sorted out as a result of your main blog post is a serious case, as well as the kind that might have in a negative way damaged my entire career if I had not encountered the website. Your own talents and kindness in taking care of every item was excellent. I am not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t come upon such a stuff like this. I’m able to at this moment relish my future. Thanks for your time so much for this skilled and result oriented guide. I will not be reluctant to suggest your web sites to any individual who would need recommendations on this subject.

    • Dear Ryan,
      God has a way for you! Look out your window. Help someone else. In helping them you’ll realize you are a real gift from God. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Sit with the aged. Play with the young. Celebrate you.

      Joan Y. Edwards
      http://www.joanyedwards.com

  8. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on
    the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come
    here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Excellent work!

    • Dear Darrell,
      I’m glad you like the design and layout of my blog. WordPress has free themes – basic designs. Then the blogger gets to choose items to put in the sidebars called widgets. I chose the ones I wanted and voila. There it is. I hope you’ll visit my blog and leave a comment often.Please leave a comment letting me know you got to read this note.
      Celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

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