Writing for Problem Solving and Conflict Management

Thursday, May 21, 2015
picture from Idea Connection

When I was getting my master’s degree in creative writing, I had a teacher who told us that if we were having a problem in real life, we should work it into our story. Not only does it add depth to the story, it often serves as a remarkable problem-solving tool.

Below is an activity that I use in many capacities to elicit stories from myself and students. One way you can use it is as a problem-solving exercise.

1) Create a Character based on yourself, a person with whom you’re having a conflict, or a completely fictional character.

  • What is this person’s name, age, gender?
  • Describe this person’s eyes, hair, hands, body shape, scars, voice, walk.
  • What is this person’s favorite food, song, activity?
  • What is something the person often says?
  • What is a goal this person has in life?
  • Describe this person’s best friend.
  • Describe this person’s enemy.
  • What else to you know about this person that you want to write down?

2) Create a Setting

  • Where are you most likely to find this character? Favorite place?
  • Describe what it looks, smells, sounds, feels, tastes like...

3) Create a Conflict or, ideally, insert the conflict or problem you’re having.

  • What is something that prevents the person from reaching his or her goal?
  • What is something that confuses or frustrates this person?
  • How does this person interact with his or her enemy? Why does that person have an enemy?

4) Put It Together

  • Create a story through writing or drawing that includes your character in the setting you created and one of your conflicts.
  • What does the character think? How does he or she act? What’s the outcome?

5) Share Your Story with at least one other person. This is a way to get an alternative perspective on the problem you hope to solve.

  • Ask your reader: What do you like about the story? What interested or surprised you the most?
  • Ask yourself: What do you like about your own story? What interested or surprised you the most?

I’ll often journal my thoughts and feelings on a difficult issue, but this activity makes me think even deeper about it. And who knows, maybe one day it’ll lead to a publishable work of art!

Have you ever used writing for problem solving or conflict management?

Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor


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