Yes I know that conflict is not something most people want more of, especially at this time of year, thankfully I’m talking more about writing stories than I am about real life.
Conflict keeps books moving and keeps readers interested in what’s before them. That person trying to split up the two love-birds or that dodgy radiator on the race car that doesn’t have time to be fixed before the big race are all conflict creators. Conflict is the things the characters have to overcome to reach their goals. The spanner in the works.
Often a full length novel has more than one thing causing that conflict. A single main problem and several little ones along the way. Sometimes even a series of problems that have to be overcome one after the other.
All too often in creating a book I hear of people getting part way through and finding the book drags a little. The conflict is already sorted out and without some more the book has no where to really go.
I plan my conflict around several things. Here’s a list of the questions I ask myself to decide what I could add to make the book more interesting.
What conflict could challenge a defect in an important character? If a character is too shy or not brave they need something to challenge them to be brave and face up to a fear. Character’s all have weaknesses but life often teaches us to grow past those. Realistic characters with depth all manage to grow as well.
What conflict could be a result of character flaws or earlier bad choices? If a character chooses to share a secret that’s not their own out of a desire to stop someone else from saying something stupid, there could be conflict when the people find out that secret has been shared. It could lead to the wrong person finding out about the secret.
What conflict could arise thanks to the setting? If the book is set in a prison then another prisoner could break out, forcing the officials to bring in harsher restrictions. In a book set in the Caribbean islands, there could be a hurricane or a massive storm. The surroundings can be a great source of conflict and delay to the ending of the book.
Whatever ends up being the conflict that stops our hero’s from achieving it’s the thing that hooks a reader and keeps them reading. People want to know how the main character it going to get through it all. They want to be tricked into thinking they might not manage it and to be held on the edge of their seats until right at the last minutes, when everything is finally overcome.
And of course, there’s always real life inspiration. I’m sure most people can think of something that’s probably gone awry over the last week or so.