Conflict, Is What You Make It

What it’s not?

Conflict gets mistaken for bantering, and arguing–basically two rams slamming into each other.

The result makes your reader very uncomfortable. Getting so frustrated, they stop reading. Once they are gone, it is unlikely you’ll get them back.

What it is?

Conflict is building tension. It grows because the reader has the inside scoop. The tension is not on the page so much as in the reader themselves.

Hmmm, say your reader knows that the main character aka MC has an allergy to cats, so she hates them. Let’s also say she runs over one just outside her home. Doing the right thing she rushes it to the vet. It dies anyway.

MC’s roommate aka RM loves cats and has a rescued cat hidden in her room. She has been trying to get the nerve up, and ask MC if she can keep her new fluffy friend. But before RM has a chance the cat gets outside. RM looks everywhere but her new best friend is gone.

Both are upset for their own reasons and when they talk about their days MC realizes it’s the same cat.

Here you as the writer have to make choices:

RM asks MC to help find the cat.and MC says what?

RM asks MC if she can keep the cat once it’s found and MC says what?

Does MC play along or confess? Does RM lose it?

As long as the conflict is possible, reasonable, logical; it can be bumped up as much as you want.

Why we need it?

The experience of watching two or more people interacting like this is what the reader wants. It takes some forethought and planning, but the results are explosive.halloween picture, grimm reaper image, emaginette's halloween blog post,

When successful

We can’t get enough of it.

It is why we read; and watch plays, movies, and television.

Safely curled up, we feel alive.

Did I miss anything you’d like to add? Feel free to comment. I love to read your thoughts on conflict.

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26 responses to “Conflict, Is What You Make It

  1. terrirochenski

    “The tension is not on the page so much as in the reader themselves.”

    I never looked at it this way before, Em. What a great line!!! I know I tend to have scenes lacking in conflict, but without it people are apt to stop reading. They need to feel it too, don’t they? I’ll never forget that again.

    Great post!

  2. Awesome summation of conflict, Em. Poor cat. 😦

  3. Love this post, Em. You hit the nail on the head with the cat example. πŸ™‚

  4. jenniferbielman

    Awesome post. Conflict is so important in writing.

  5. This is great! My hubby and I just had a conversation about why I was enjoying the current book I”m reading. It has so much drama but I can read it and laugh at a safe distance!! πŸ˜€

  6. I ditto everything said above! You really nailed it!

  7. I love conflict, great post you really described it well!

  8. This reminds me of an acting class I took in college πŸ™‚ Its about the character at their core, not annoying arguing.

  9. I have to admit that lately I have been shying away lately from books with too much drama. I don’t know if I am just burnt out on them or what but I have been doing for the lighter reads this past week and have been really enjoying it.

    I think you make some good points though, we do need some tension and other things to have the full effect of the story sometimes but not overly done.

    • Too much of anything can be a bad thing. It is up to the author and editor to pull back if things get out of hand or bump it up if it gets boring.

      It’s a fine line. πŸ™‚

  10. Tension is what we all should strive for. It’s what keeps me reading. I say build up the tension and then let my imagination take over. But when I try to do that in my writing, I either leave out too much and cause my readers to say, Huh? or I tell too much. You’re right, it’s a fine line.

  11. Fantastic advice on writing conflict! I’m bookmarking this for later πŸ™‚

  12. I really dig conflict when it’s done the right way (not drawn out too long or unrealistic but just right). The way you described it is perfect.

  13. Really well explained πŸ™‚

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