For Aspiring Writers

What’s a Book Without Conflict?

As much as you may want to wish better for human nature, your reader will have no interest for your story if it doesn’t have conflict. We need some spice, some gossip, some friction – we need your character to be going down a pretty steep hill.

There’s a wonderful example I read below:

“Good morning,” he said sleepily.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Breakfast ready?”
“No. What would you like?”
He considered. “How about toast and eggs?”
“Okey-dokey. How do you like your toast?”

“Golden brown.”
“Hmmmm—okay. “
“The grass needs cutting.”
“I’ll do it.”
“After you cut the grass, let’s go to the park, have a picnic lunch.”

Bored yet? Very easily, however, when the female said “No, the breakfast isn’t ready,” if the male character had replied: “How many times do I have to tell you? I have to leave for work early now that you ruined the car and walk forty minutes in the frigging cold, so leaving with something in my stomach might do me some good,” would make this much more interesting.

Coming up with conflict:

  • is there someone who wants the same thing as your character?
  • is there someone who will be negatively affected because of your character’s actions?
  • does someone oppose what your character is doing?
  • is there something morally wrong about your character’s actions?
  • is your character caught between two things?
  • has someone treated your character badly?
  • is someone stopping your character from doing something?
  • has your character committed a big mistake?
  • does your character know something they shouldn’t?
  • is your character involved in something that is illegal and wants to get out?
  • has your character had to hurt someone?
  • is your character oppressed?

What other the things do you have to be aware of when you bring conflict into your plot?

  • equal forces – who wants to see Muhammed Ali fighting a 10 year old? Your antagonist should have the brains, or the strength, or the back up that your character matches or even lacks. Close competition makes it hard for your reader to call shots, and so they’re more likely to be in for a surprise.
  • inner conflict – not all books will necessarily have  a human force opposing them. You may want to add an inner conflict to your character. What if your character is very poor and steals from his employer to make ends meet at home, but is morally against this because the employer treats the protagonist well?


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