When you’re reading a novel, do you sometimes find yourself figuring out how to derail the conflict? That’s the sort of thinking that can turn a solid story idea into a pile of mush.
If you’re conflict averse, like me, writing fiction becomes an even greater challenge than it might otherwise be. The same is true for people who plan ahead. One of my friends is like that. He’s a natural problem solver, and often heads off trouble before it begins. In real life, this makes him a great manager, but it causes problems for him in his writing, because too many of his characters take after him.
Whether you tend to downplay, derail, or prevent conflict in real life, the key to keeping your useful real-world qualities from ruining your stories is through characterization. As an easygoing, laidback person who doesn’t like a lot of drama in life, I tend to write about easygoing, laidback characters who rarely take offense, use comic relief to release tension, and look for ways to compromise so as to avoid hurt feelings. The result is deadly dull reading filled with spineless, milquetoast characters.
In the past, I’ve tried to fix this problem by looking for mechanical ways to inject conflict into my stories, but I don’t think that’s the right answer. Instead, it’s better to look at the characters themselves. Not just their immediate response to a particular event, but their inner nature.
I’m sure it’s wrong to think that every character – or even every protagonist – needs to be a take-charge individual. What key characters do need,, though, is a driving goal: something they believe in strongly enough that they will risk everything (even hurting the feelings of others) to achieve their goal.
I just recently finished reading Hunger Games. (I’m perennially about two years behind the times.) In that book there were the number of places where my natural tendency would have been to derail or defuse the tension. In keeping the conflict intense, Hunger Games relied every bit as much on characterization as it did on the external forces in play.
Some of us struggle to keep the conflict intense in our writing. One of the better ways to succeed here is to take another look at our key characters. Are too many of them like us in their personalities? Are too many of them cooperative by nature, or possessed of strong foresight so they solve problems before things get out of control?
Varying the personalities of our characters will add depth and richness to the story. But it can also do something even more important by adding a natural, believable source of conflict, one not based on arbitrary outside events but instead driven by the beliefs and goals of our characters.
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Genre - Erotic Fantasy
Rating – NC17
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