Melanie Abrams

This week’s episode is an invitation to explore conflict, embrace conflict, and even revel in conflict. Grant and Brooke cite authors—like Vladimir Nabakov, James Scott Bell, and Dean R. Koontz—who will help you feel less conflicted about conflict. This week’s guest, Melanie Abrams, has a lot to share about conflict, from how she’s handled it in her own books, to how she grapples with it as a parent who writes (or a writer who parents), to the formula she urges her students to consider in their own writing: Desire + Danger = Drama.


Melanie Abrams is the author of two novels, Playing and Meadowlark. Melanie is a writer, teacher, editor, and photographer. She teaches writing at UC Berkeley and is married to the writer Vikram Chandra. They live with their children in Oakland, California.

Takeaway: Exercise in Conflict

This is a two-part exercise. In Part 1, you want to brainstorm different types of conflicts

“person against person”

“person against nature”

“person against themselves”

“person against society”

“person against machine”

Spend a couple minutes with any of these types or choose one that speaks to you—and see what kind of conflict speaks to you.

Part 2 is Melanie’s exercise. Pick the title of a song. Write it on a notecard, and hand it to them. Then write a story that can fit on the notecard. It has to have conflict, rising action to a crisis, and a resolution. This helps to introduce conflict early in a story—and it’s a lot of fun.

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