Conflict is Essential

Fiction or non-fiction, conflict is essential to a manuscript. Without it, nothing moves forward.

When Star Trek: Next Generation came out, Gene Roddenberry insisted there would be no conflict aboard the Enterprise because by then, humanity will have evolved beyond it (as if). The writers tied themselves in knots trying to obey the command.

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Conflict GOOD!

Motivation is caused by what a character wants. Action is caused when one character’s wants conflict with another character’s wants.

Superman wants Truth, Justice, and The American Way. Luthor wants to rule the world. Conflict.

Batman wants order, Joker wants chaos. Conflict.

Conservatives want less government, Liberals want more. Conflict.

Your character wants something, another character opposes it. Conflict.

Every scene should have some conflict, if only internal conflict. When a story is bogged down, and you feel like you’re going in circles, the likely culprit is you don’t know what your characters want, or you do and haven’t figured out how to put conflict into the story.

A common method is creating partner characters who conflict in manner, method, or outlook, and of course, the opposing force has conflicting goals. Avoid creating characters simply to create conflict; they must have an integral purpose to the story, contributing something to the resolution.

In non-fiction, the author must be at cross-purposes to the status quo and must challenge it. The health food writer wants you to give up tasty foods that are bad for you. You, the reader, don’t want to give up hot fudge sundaes. The writer must oppose that want and re-engineer the reader’s desires.

Non-fiction is, in essence, a polite argument.

In your story, where’s the conflict? Identify it in each scene, and spice it up to quicken the pace.