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Be a Better Writer--MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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glorybee
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Be a Better Writer--MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

Postby glorybee » Sat Nov 14, 2015 10:01 am

In man vs. nature conflict, one character is pitted against the forces of nature. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all man vs. nature stories are survival stories. There are several subcategories of nature, a few of which might surprise you.

1. Weather phenomena: hurricanes, floods, blizzards and the like. Think about movies like Twister, or the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire.”
2. Geographical structures: oceans, mountains, deserts. A great example of this would be the movie Castaway, or the recent book The Martian.
3. Animals: Examples of this would be Jurassic Park or Moby Dick.
4. The physical sciences: gravity, astronomy, chemistry. Lots of sci-fi will fall into this category. Remember The Fantastic Voyage, with the crew of an ultra-miniaturized craft piloting through a human body?
5. The human body: disease, injury, aging. Great examples of this would be My Left Foot or The Miracle Worker.

Why write a man vs. nature story? A few reasons occur to me, and I’m sure some of you can think of others.

1. Stories containing this conflict can be very exciting and adventurous. If you like to write action, this may be the conflict for you.

2. You have a great opportunity with this conflict to have your main character display (or learn) qualities such as bravery, determination, resourcefulness, compassion. A common theme in man vs. nature stories is overcoming.

3. The forces of nature need not necessarily be entirely problematical. You may use this conflict to showcase the awesomeness of God’s creation.

4. If you want to feature just one really strong character, this is a great way to do it. You don’t have to write any bad characters since the antagonist is not human (a forest, cancer, a piddling puppy).

Man vs. nature stories can be written in either first person or in third person. If they’re written in first person, your readers will get to know the character and her struggles intimately. In third person, the reader is one step further removed, and your writing will more closely resemble the experience of watching a movie.

Similarly, man vs. nature stories can be written in either present tense or past tense. If in present tense, your story will feel to the reader as if the struggles of the characters are happening right now, giving it an immediacy, even an urgency. If in past tense, the story unfolds from a point in time when, as far as the reader is concerned, the conflict has already been resolved. So she may be reading your story with a feeling that the ending is inevitable—a great opportunity for you to throw her for a loop.

For an example of a challenge entry with a man vs. nature conflict, read Marionette.

HOMEWORK:
1. Make a comment or ask a question about man vs. nature conflict.
2. If you have a Writing Challenge entry that uses this conflict, link to it—and tell us something about why you think the conflict in this piece is effective.
3. Name some other books, short stories, or movies that have man vs. nature conflict.
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JudySauer
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

Postby JudySauer » Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:24 pm

HI Jan,

While reading your lesson, my 92 year old Aunt Angie came to mind immediately. She is on a quick decline with her memory. She will call me some days once or twice, or like last week, she called me seven times. I am deeply saddened by her diminishing mental capacities. This falls in the human body man vs. nature category.

I don't have a Challenge article on man vs. nature to link.

Poseidon Adventure comes to mind of man vs. the ocean. Other titles to consider are Jaws, The Perfect Storm, and Gravity.

Judy Sauer
Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. -Jude 2 NIV

Judy Sauer
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

Postby glorybee » Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:36 pm

Superb examples, Judy!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MAN VS. NATURE CONFLICT

Postby RachelM » Sun Nov 22, 2015 2:25 am

The movie Gravity was a man-vs. nature conflict. Most of the movie had only one character on screen--Sandra Bullock's character, but the movie was deeply emotional and riveting as she fought overwhelming odds to make it back to earth.

My novel's main conflict was originally man vs. self, but then I decided to layer in more conflict of varying types. Self-discovery and change is still a big part of my book, but that's realized through other conflict--man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc.
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