A novel isn’t a page turner without conflict. Conflict is what keeps us on the edge of seats worried about what will happen next. But managing conflict as a writer–planning it, producing it, keeping it–is an exercise in stamina. Beginning a novel with enough conflict to last until the end isn’t easy. Add in the struggle to keep the conflict ball in the air chapter after chapter, it takes a lot of practice.
Conflict stems from two main sources:
- External conflict--the plot, the events, the other people in the story– the things that come at the heroine from outside and keep her from reaching her goal.
- Internal conflict–the internal struggle of the character, the flaws, the past wounds, the emotional barriers–those are the things that thwart the hero from inside himself.
Balancing external and internal conflict is like walking a tight rope. There has to be enough external conflict to keep the over arching plot moving without stalling. But there has to be enough internal struggle to keep the reader emotionally engaged in the stakes till the end.
We love our characters and the temptation to make things easier for them, to help them fall in love sooner, reach that happily ever-after faster, is possibly the worst enemy of our story. If it’s too easy for them, who wants to read that? There’s no reason to keep turning pages. But if we torture them and employ my favorite technique from James Scott Bell, “What’s the worst that can happen?”, then we come up with the kind of books we can never get enough of–even after the HEA.
Join us for our chat on conflict Sunday at 4:00 pm PST / 7:00 pm EST.