Compiling Strategies

Watch a favorite movie clip to fuel ideas about strategies that characters use to argue or get their way with other characters. Or take them from scenes in stories you like. Better yet, take them from real life. Compile a list of such strategies to use when you write your scenes.

Storytelling is a process of change

Click on mouth to play/pause

Anything can be negotiated


Most agree that conflict is at the heart of story. It is too easy to think of conflict as two people butting heads, instead of recognizing the complications and subtleties of story, in which many issues are at play.

You may not think about conflict in every story, thou you will usually ask yourself, what’s in play here? Storytelling is a process of change, and the heart of interior change is discovery or recognition, the revelation of something not comprehended before.

There are all kinds of ways that conflict can arise in situations constructed around these concepts, but in the end it comes back to the need for the presence of tension in a story.

There are certain kinds of stories that are likely to have direct confrontations—think of Westerns, thrillers, most mysteries, but in most instances, the number of passages in a story in which outright anger is expressed is likely to be very small.

Rather we see characters dancing around issues, slicing at topics that don’t really have much to do with the real source of tension. Or we see arguments cut short, delayed for a late time. And in many instances, what we see is negotiation, an exchange of character desires and denials and relenting, until some sort of peace is carved out, or else the whole interaction falls apart.

Conveying receptivity

The way negotiation partners position their bodies relative to each other may influence how receptive each is to the other person's message and ideas.

Face and eyes: Receptive negotiators smile, make plenty of eye contact. This conveys the idea that there is more interest in the person than in what is being said. On the other hand, non-receptive negotiators make little to no eye contact. Their eyes may be squinted, jaw muscles clenched and head turned slightly away from the speaker

Arms and hands: To show receptivity, negotiators should spread arms and open hands on table or relaxed on their lap. Negotiators show poor receptivity when their hands are clenched, crossed, positioned in front of their mouth, or rubbing the back of their neck.

Legs and Feet: Receptive negotiators sit with legs together or one leg slightly in front of the other. When standing, they distribute weight evenly and place hands on their hips with their body tilted toward the speaker. Non-receptive negotiators stand with legs crossed, pointing away from the speaker.

Torso: Receptive negotiators sit on the edge of their chair, unbutton their suit coat with their body tilted toward the speaker. Non-receptive negotiators may lean back in their chair and keep their suit coat buttoned.

Receptive negotiators tend to appear relaxed with their hands open and palms visibly displayed.

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