Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Writing Layers – Conflict

As I learned and grew as a writer, I went back over and over my first novel to add more layers to it. In this series I'm writing about each of my 'layers' in the hope it will help someone who is starting out. This week we look at conflict.


I was aware that there needs to be conflict to make a story work. If the hero wants something and then he gets it, that's not a story. There needs to be a struggle. But I didn't think about other conflicts within the story. My story is about a small space ship that spends weeks at a time on patrol, and the crew all get along perfectly fine. Then they get overcrowded, and nobody minds.

I realised that wasn't realistic and had to work out what went on between them. Who didn't get on with whom, and why. Some of it came out of their past, and that came to light as the character backstories developed. It also gave more substance to the novel as I wrote about the interactions.
Then someone asked me why the crew were all men. I laughed and said it was simpler that way, but when I thought about it, a story doesn't need to be simple. I made one of the crew female and it changed all the dynamics between them. If you want to read the finished book, Intruders, you can get it here.

There are different kinds of conflicts, not just fighting. Anything that puts a barrier between the hero and his goal, a disagreement over the best way to proceed, a clash of ideology, two men in love with the same girl (or two girls in love with the same guy), the list goes on. And don't forget struggles with their own conscience. They all involve what David Baboulene calls knowledge gaps: How will it work out? Who will get the girl?  Will he compromise his standards in order to succeed, and will it be worth it?

Look at your story again and see where you can create more conflict. Look at your characters more closely and see where their weaknesses and inner conflicts lie. Then you'll have your readers hooked because they must find out how it turns out.

Other posts in this series:

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