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.
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.
8 thoughts on “Conflict is Essential”
I don’t like conflict in everyday life and I think that makes it fun in writing. I’m loving your posts.
Ill throw a question out there in true “Writer’s Block” meeting form…
Can the conflict in fiction be internal? The main character has ideals that aren’t met by reality? Or does the conflict require characters?
I’m loving your posts too. This is helpful hearing your voice and wisdom throughout the month.
Yes and sort of. Internal conflict is great BUT you have to be able to show it, which will drive character interaction and conflict. Otherwise you have a talking head issue with only one head. More on that in a May post. 🙂
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Which the movie Inside Out tackles brilliantly. Albeit they create characters inside the head representing the conflicting emotions. Can’t wait for this post!
As a non-fiction writer, I love your definition:
“Non-fiction is, in essence, a polite argument.”
Sounds about right.
As a fiction reader, I love conflict. It’s what makes the story interesting, even if the reader doesn’t realise it, or even identify the conflict as conflict.
“A polite argument.”
Very interesting analogy, but when I wrote some non-fiction a mini-memoir, I can see it. Have you written any novels? I would be interested in reading.
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Yes. 😊 Do Angels Still Fall and The Maniac From Outer Space. Two different types of fiction, but both are well written and pull you into the story.
Thank you, ddsletten, as Debi said below, I have two novels on Amazon. Do Angels Still Fall? and Me and the Maniac in Outer Space. The first is a “family novel” that kids and adults can enjoy, the second is a sci-fi adventure. I’ve also got a non-fiction book that will be coming out in a month or two about creativity that everyone should read. 🙂