Monday, 5 May 2008

The Misconception of Conflict

Tell Me a Story - writing tips.

I'm sometimes asked for my views on conflict in a novel. I don't suppose there are hard and fast rules, but some jump to mind, which new writers ignore at their peril.

Certainly, misconception as a foundation for conflict is a no-go-area. I seriously doubt if any intelligent reader would tolerate an artificial state such as misconception. Readers simply question why the protagonists don’t enquire and resolve the problem immediately.

I've listed a few ideas. I'll never claim the list to be definitive, just a guideline that can be expanded but never disregarded.

Conflict generally falls into one of three categories. Man against man; man against nature/inanimate things; or man against himself. Of these, man against himself, has perhaps generated some of the most powerful emotions found in books.
  1. Characters should always be in a circumstance from which there is no apparent escape. If there's a way out, there is no conflict.
  2. The conflict must be plausible. Whatever the reason, the conflict must seem rational within the framework of the story.
  3. The intensity of the conflict(s) must vary throughout the story.
  4. Individuals should never go over the top for the sake of contradiction or effect. The conflict must justify the response.
  5. Only one conflict should be allowed to run through the entire book. Minor conflicts should interweave but for only relatively short periods.
  6. No chapter should be without conflict but it should vary in intensity, rising and falling throughout the book.
  7. The novel should start with the main problem, continue with obstacles of varying influence, then draw to a close with the resolution of the main problem.
  8. You must resolve the conflict you started with.
  9. You must leave no loose ends. All questions must be answered.
If anyone has anything to add, I'd love to hear from you.

Romantic Suspense

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