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Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Build Conflict in a Novel

(photo courtesy

       Many writing experts believe that conflict has to be on every page, at the end of every chapter. A declaration is made: There shall be no rest for any character in any story!

     Their lives must and will remain in constant turmoil and conflict! Poor characters!

     Uh...I disagree--humbly. I believe that conflict in a novel or story is 100% crucial. I believe that it truly helps build your characters as well as causing your readers to sit on the edge of their bed, beads of sweat dripping in their eyes and their nails are non-existent from being chewed into oblivion!

   However, I also believe it is great for a character to stop and smell the roses. I think it's just as important to build a real character that has great things happen to them and thinks that everything is hunky dory! That is pleasant at times. Its okay to give the character a breather. You must not let the story get bland though and that is why you need conflict.

So how do you build conflict? How do you find that good balance? Here is a list that may help you find inspiration for your conflict, it may answer your questions as to why a story needs conflict or it may do none of the above--here it is nonetheless.

1:Characters cannot be at peace with their surroundings for too long. They become utterly boring if everything is peachy.

2: Conflict gives readers the reason they need to keep reading.

3: Conflict creates mystery.

4: Conflict makes the character real

5: Conflict creates the pace of your story

Okay, so what are some types of conflict you can write?

I view conflict in two ways. Conflict shown by actions and thought or conflict which is implied or shown through things unsaid.

Actions and thoughts are obvious conflict and they are powerful, but don't disregard the "below surface" conflict. These are characters that don't fit in with their surroundings, they are ones that are pitted against their world. They may not even be aware they are in conflict with others, but subtle hints are given that go against the grain that allows conflict.

Here is my last list for the day, tips on how to create or build conflict.

1: Read through some chapters or pages, does your mind wander? It may mean your pace is slowing and a bump in the road must be formed.

2: Switch between action conflict and thought conflict. Show how the turmoil within the character is also causing conflict in the character's surroundings.

3: Give subtle hints that the individual/s do not fit in their environment. Maybe give a list of rules that they are to follow, but your protagonist never seems to follow them.

4: Don't get conflict happy! Maybe every page they turn someone is getting stabbed or mauled or kidnapped! If it's too much your readers will get overwhelmed, maybe tone a few chapters down.

Remember, conflict is why we read novels. The characters are put in positions where they must make choices. Sometimes they choose wrong, sometimes it causes a war, sometimes it brings them the peace they sought. More importantly it brings to light the depth of your characters. It makes them real to readers. It shows how they think, how they are dealing with stress. It shows their true colors!

Don't let the daisy's and rainbows over crowd your story. While they are gazing at the rainbow, maybe the unicorn that comes from the sky tramples them. They are now left in the field of daisy's with two broken arms and a smashed face. What happens now? Conflict people, conflict.

Happy Writing!