Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Fly in the Ointment

By Cheri Chesley

I woke up Monday with a plan. I love having a plan. It makes me feel better to have a sure direction.

Then I woke up today. Dang it, my wonderful plan hit a snag.

It strikes me that, as we write, this is the sort of thing our characters face. We all know reading a book where the character's life is happy and nothing really bad happens is boring--even if we sometimes wish life would be like that. But, just as in life, there can be no growth without conflict. Another reason I'm a big fan of free agency.

Some of my favorite ways to introduce conflict to a story are: a new character come into the scene, a sudden event occurs (death, car accident, etc). Sometimes conflict comes quietly, such as a character receiving a letter, but the fallout from the event is life changing for that character. Maybe the letter reveals a long-held family secret.

Of course, we must be careful that our events are believable. When I wrote my first story, I didn't feel much like I was in charge of events. I had developed characters that were "real" to me, and just let them choose what do to. Those choices led to consequences that led to other events where they had to make a choice. I think that's part of the reason my first manuscript ended up being over 400 pages. :)

What are some of your favorite ways to introduce conflict to a story?

1 comment:

Steve Westover said...

Good post. You described to the great master plots...Stranger Comes to Town and Hero Takes a Journey.

The new event, person, journey etc must be believable and it must be significant. Conflict for conflict sake is boring unless it leads the character to question themselves, their circumstance and the status quo.