Conflict: I have no anger in me!
No, not conflict of interest…not
conflict within your being…but conflict found in a story.
And what exactly is conflict in a story?
Simple…a problem/obstacle your main character needs to overcome by the end of the story. Think of it as your engine
that drives your car forward. Without one your car remains idle, collecting dust in the driveway. Give your car a super booster
engine and you’ll be coasting the streets with no worries.
In a story, your conflict moves your character
through various situations he must overcome. This intrigues and pulls your reader deeper into the story, connecting with your
Before writing your story and making up
your character profile, ask yourself these questions:
What will be the main goal my character will face and need to overcome?
Who will be my target audience?
The second question is important because
it will help to focus your words and subject matter to suit the appropriate audience.
TYPES OF CONFLICTS:
Here are some examples of conflicts in
the almighty tried and successful ‘good against evil’
Think Harry Potter, The Lord of
the Rings, Star Wars, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs…yes, these fairy tales were using the ‘good
against evil’ method if you sit down and think about it. The wolves in both fairy tales were intent on overcoming their
‘so-they-thought’ weaker counterparts.
In the above examples, something stood
in the protagonist’s way:
Harry tries to defeat Voldemort but problems
and other antagonists along the way makes this quest difficult for him.
The Lord of the Rings finds Frodo’s
quest to destroy the Ring but evil and dark forces stand in his way, too.
Luke Skywalker in Star Wars needs to defeat
the new order of evil, and he, too, faces many obstacles and characters along the way.
In each of these examples, these obstacles
(new smaller conflicts against the bigger goal they are after) causes a reader to continue reading to find out if he’ll
be successful, how he will outsmart them, and what change, if any, will this cause in the main character.
Along with these obstacles, throwing in
some inner conflicts alongside the outer emotions helps to cast them more as three-dimensional beings, for example:
Luke Skywalker deals with the knowledge
he has a sister somewhere out there. His inner being and emotions help to make him more sympathetic, which eventually bonds
the reader to him. The same with Frodo; his world has been thrown for a loop when he takes on the quest of the Ring…along
the way he begins to doubt if he, indeed, is the best man for this job. Also, he questions his will power to avoid succumbing
to the dark forces once he has tasted the Ring’s power.
Another example to show you what ‘inner
Let’s assume your book is based on
a police officer who mistakenly shoots a young child while pursuing a suspect. It’s dark in the building and the kid
jumped out of no where with a toy gun. The police officer is suspended while the case is being investigated.
How he deals and is dealt by his immediate
His struggle to remove the visions of the
The emotional turmoil as he waits for the
investigation to conclude.
His dealings with the parents of the child
he accidentally killed.
Throughout all of these emotions the one
factor that will bind your reader to continue will be: How will he fare at the end of this book. The way you first portray
this particular character in the beginning will be totally different by the end because of the various upsets he’s had
to deal with. Show him as upbeat, nonchalant, no change at the end and you will lose your reader’s interest in the book
and in you as an author.
Think of real life: if you had to go through
a trauma as the officer in the example above, how would it change you? A writer needs to wear his character’s shoes
and get inside his head to fully understand him. Write a story with a stick person and you get stale material. Write a story
with powerful emotions and you have one interesting read.
THE ALMIGHTY ENDING
By the end of your book all inner and outer
conflicts need to have reached a conclusion. Whether your character overcame or failed is not as important as making sure
he tried to meet them head on. You cannot place a conflict (or foreshadow) without making sure by the end of the story some
sort of a resolution was made. This is cheating a reader and they WILL notice, especially if one of those conflicts was the
one he’s been hoping to see the outcome to.
YOUR TURN EXERCISE:
What I’d like you to do for this
exercise is come up with some interesting conflicts for a story. Come up with a one sentence conflict then send it on down
to me at:
Place MOTHER HEN’S BIN EXERCISE on
the subject heading with your name, email address, one short paragraph bio and link back to you. I’ll make sure to place
them in an upcoming issue of The Muse Marquee and The Muse Unleashed.