Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Every Writer Needs Conflict

Interesting picture. See how everyone is conforming until you get to the two fighting. That's what catches your eye. There's conflict there. And people are drawn to conflict.

I hate conflict in my life. When Hubby and I have a disagreement, my world seems out of kilter. Or when I know I've said something that may have hurt someones feelings, I feel horrible and can't rest until I've made amends. 

But there is a place where every writer needs conflict . . . in the books they write.

Every good book is filled with conflict. Conflict captures attention and drives the story. The strength of a novel depends upon the strength of conflict. And it can't be a mere disagreement. I'm talking deep conflict that is layered, can't be avoided, and is inescapable.

Layered conflict . . .
What do I mean by this? Not only do your characters need to have inner conflict (the demons that they fight within), but outer conflict (what's happening beyond their control). A simple example of this is Harry Potter. Poor Harry fought inner conflict. He wrestled with self-esteem all the time. Much of his young life he felt alone and inferior to others. What fed his inner conflict? His aunt and uncle treated him horribly. The kid slept beneath the stairwell and had to cook and clean for them. That was definitely out of his control and an outer conflict he battled against whenever he could. The inner and outer conflict was layered. You can still layer on more conflict. just make sure you add a dash of hope in between.

Conflict that can't be avoided . . .
Again I'm going to use Harry. Hogwarts was a blessing for Harry because he found Hermione and Ron, which gave him some relief, however his conflict was also heightened because more and more Voldemort crept into Harry's mind turning up his inner conflict. Plus, Harry's outer conflicts grew more and more intense: finding the sorcerer's stone, the chamber of secrets, and on and on. No matter where he lived or how hard it tried, Harry could not avoid conflict.

Inescapable conflict . . .
Harry couldn't run from conflict because it followed. He couldn't hide from it, because it found him. And when he finally realized he couldn't escape fighting Voldemort, he bravely faced him. The entire series of Harry Potter worked toward this inescapable moment.

J.K. Rowling knew the power of conflict and how it fed her story.

I may not like conflict in my personal life, but I have to write it in my stories for them to thrive.

Think about the stories that you have liked the most. What inner conflict did the main characters fight? What outer conflict did they contend with? Was conflict layered, unavoidable, and inescapable?


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