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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My...

Conflict...without it our writing would be very boring. Think of the Wizard of Oz. Would a trip to visit the wizard hold our attention without the wicked witch after Dorothy? I don’t think so. Even if you added the tin man, scarecrow and lion without conflict they would be just another distraction. Because of the conflict, we get involved in the story. We want Dorothy to get to the Emerald City, see the wizard and return to Kansas. We fall in love with her companions and want them to succeed in their quests also. The ending is satisfying when all the conflict is resolved and everyone lives “happily ever after”.

How does this apply to our writing you may ask? Conflict drives our characters. It causes our readers to turn the pages with eager anticipation of what is going to happen next. Conflict makes us wonder if the girl will get the guy, will the good guy win in the end or if our hero will save the world in time.

Conflict is all around us. Shoes are on sale but we need to pay the water bill, what do we do? A co-worker praises the boss and gets the promotion we should have had. Hubby wants dinner but I need to get this scene written, do I stop now or make him wait?

Not only are there external conflicts, but internal as well. The man that has to go to a hated job each day when he’d rather paint instead, the teen who is tempted to steal when the store clerk isn’t looking or the woman on a business trip who is tempted to cheat on her husband. After all, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

Our characters need conflict in their lives and if we want to engage our readers and keep them involved in the story, we have to give it to them. But conflict has to be resolved within the story. The end has to satisfy or the reader will feel cheated and you may lose a reader.

Look at the piece you are working on...can you add some conflict? If you can, do it. Give the reader something special. You won’t regret it.

Here's a bonus.  Steal Your Character's Shoes

5 comments:

Cheryl said...

Great article, Speck. One of the things that was missing in my first children's book manuscript was conflict. I never even realized it until a reader picked it up.

With this current WIP there is a ton of conflict, and now that Amelia is going away to school, there will be more. What fun!

Cheryl

V.R. Leavitt said...

So true! That's one thing we discuss in writer's group a lot. Every chapter should have some kind of conflict to keep the story going.

Conflict is definitely key!
Great advice, Jean.

JoElle Martín said...

Oh, great subject.

I was having all sorts of conflict at my last job.
Easy. I quit.

But back to the matter at hand, writing. Yeah, I got a reject on a romance last year. Female and Male MCs were not conflicting enough. Well, that is what I am fixing now.

Interesting thing about conflict in romance ... it tends to make them get steamier. Yum!

JoElle Martín said...

Oh, great subject.

I was having all sorts of conflict at my last job.
Easy. I quit.

But back to the matter at hand, writing. Yeah, I got a reject on a romance last year. Female and Male MCs were not conflicting enough. Well, that is what I am fixing now.

Interesting thing about conflict in romance ... it tends to make them get steamier. Yum!

Cheryl said...

Great article, Speck. One of the things that was missing in my first children's book manuscript was conflict. I never even realized it until a reader picked it up.

With this current WIP there is a ton of conflict, and now that Amelia is going away to school, there will be more. What fun!

Cheryl