Readers love it.
Many writers do, too, which was evidenced in the comments on Wednesday’s post, “Conflicted: Do I Really Have to Hurt My Characters?“
Here’s a sampling:
“I guess I’m a big meanie because I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem hurting my characters. LOL”
“I love adding conflict to my characters’ lives.”
“The hotter the fire a piece of gold has to go through, the brighter it shines afterwards….”
Conflict is an essential element in a story, and the stronger the better.
I knew this when I revised the story I sent to my agent. Really, I did. Contest judges two years before had pointed out the need for a stronger conflict at the beginning of my story. I added one based on a wonderful suggestion my hubby gave me.
Taking his idea, I ran with it and ended up with a beginning that earned me several contest wins, requests for fulls, and the offer from my agent. While I enjoyed the accolades, I knew I owed my success to Gwynly. See why I’m so happy to have him as my plotting partner? 🙂
Lack of conflict is a major weakness.
When I received the revision notes from my agent and learned that she liked the opening 1/4 of the book, I was happy. When she said the final 3/4ths needed to be completely rewritten, I was humbled. That was the part I’d plotted by my own little self.
My revision notes were four single-spaced pages, nearly half of which dealt with what my agent called: “My #1 Concern: Lack of conflict.” I won’t bore you with all the painful details. Three sentences will outline the problem.
“The opening chapters introduce a juicy conflict . . .”
“However, we lose the central conflict only a few chapters into the book . . .”
“It’s kind of like you let the air out of the balloon too soon.”
Did it hurt to hear that? Yup. A lot.
Did I agree? Readily. That was my light bulb moment.
Conflict must be sustained.
During my agent-directed revisions, I began by plotting a new story. I came up with one that carried the conflict from the beginning all the way to a few pages shy of the end.
I’m not done with my revisions, though. I’ll be doing another round (or two or three) for my editor, along with a little trimming and tightening. As I revise, I’ll be looking for ways to intensify the conflict even more. I’m sure my editor will have great suggestions, too.
Ways to Increase Conflict and Heighten Tension
Since I’m a writer who tended to be easy on her characters, I’m learning how to make things tough on them. Here’s a list I’ve started, but I could use your help, especially those of you who enjoy including plenty of conflict in your stories.
- Have a strong external conflict that prevents the couple from getting together.
- Have strong internal conflicts that keep the couple apart.
- Deny the hero and heroine what they need to reach their goals.
- Take away something that means a great deal to the hero or heroine.
- Take away someone who means a great deal to the hero or heroine.
- End scenes and chapters with strong read-on prompts the leave things hanging.
What can you add to the list?