Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Carolyne Aarsen on Conflict

Conflict and horses

Carolyne Aarsen here and yes, you read the above note right.

My husband and I went to The Mane Event, a huge horse show put on each year up our way. You can wander the trade show and buy everything from horse treats to leather toilet seats, shiny shirts to fancy quirts. And I can't think of any more rhymes.

But for me, the most fascinating part of the event was the horse training challenges. Three trainers from North America are given a green horse (not colour green - green as in unbroke - this isn't a St. Patrick's Day event!) . . . and four time slots of one hour each to work with this three year old horse. At the end of their time they  have to be able to ride the horse around the ring and over a few obstacles and, hopefully, ride it onto a horse trailer. As they work with the horses they talk about what they are doing. What I found the most interesting was the idea of pressure and release. They try to get the horse to do what they want by applying a small amount of pressure and as soon as the horse does what they want, they release. If they want the horse to put her head down, they apply pressure to the nose downward and as soon as they get a response, they release.

As I was watching them work with the horses I realize I do the same thing with my character. It's all about pressure and release. I put them in a situation where there is pressure on them to make a decision. They can fight it or they can give in. And as soon as they give in, the pressure, for that particular situation, is released. Until the next situation. And each time I put them in a position of pressure my characters have two choices. Fight it and keep feeling the discomfort of the pressure or give in, do what they are supposed to, even if they don't want to, and have the pressure come off.

Like my husband always says, training horses is about making it hard for them to do what they want and easy for them to do what you want. I do the same thing with my characters. 

My characters typically have a lot of issues they have to work on. And release. And the only way I can get them to release is to put them through pressure. Drag them through their character arc. I have a story coming up in August about a strapping young man named Brian who is a mechanic by trade but because of the economic situation of the town he lives in, ends up having to work in a bakery. Talk about pressure. But when he stops fighting it . . . . Well you'll just have to read the book to find out. The Bachelor Baker is the second book in The Heart of Main Street and is coming out in August. Check it out and find out how Brian gives in.

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