April M. is the winner of last week's giveaway--Seeing Things by Patti Hill. Please contact Patti with your snail mail address through the "contact" button. Congratulations, April!
I hate conflict, hate being at odds with anyone. I do what I can to avoid it, and if a rift in relationship comes between me and another person, I do what I can to correct it. My younger sister, reflecting on our teen years, might argue the point. All I can say is, "Sorry, Janet."
- Conflict can be external or internal. Conflict doesn't just come from one character opposing another. It can arise from a force of nature, from war, from illness, from prejudice. Those are all external sources of conflict. But it can be internal as well, where a character is in opposition to himself.
- Conflict should be in every scene. Conflict isn't one issue that's dealt with in a plot. If conflict is the DNA of your story, you'll find it everywhere. It must be in every scene, in every passage of dialogue, to a degree appropriate to the scene.
- Conflict should intensify as your story unfolds. In Between the Lines, Jessica Page Morrell says, "Well-written fiction includes ever-growing dilemma, adversities, and pressure as the story progresses (emphasis mine). The conflict should build with the rising action until it reaches the boiling point. Like a set of stairs, it should be ever climbing till it reaches the top, or climax.
- Conflict should be equal to the story. The conflict in a romance is going to be quite different from the conflict in a fast-paced thriller.
- Conflict must matter to your reader. Back to the "clash of wants" that Sol Stein wrote about. He adds this important piece of advice. "You need to be certain that the conflicting wants are ... over something that the reader will view as important." If the stakes aren't high enough, readers aren't going to care.
There's a tremendous payoff when conflict is handled correctly. "A reader who feels anticipation, excitement, interest, or compassion is a reader who is not going to walk away from the novel till the entire story is told" (Elizabeth George in Write Away). And isn't that what we want in our fiction, as both writer and reader?