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Friday, March 29, 2013

Using Conflict in Your Stories

Most of us don't have a lot of discord (there are exceptions and those people could write books about themselves) in our lives, but to write a story without conflict would be boring.  Author's who write page turners add a lot of tension.  Conflict can raise the stakes in any story.  There are many ways to do this. I write romantic suspense, so I always have the element of danger in my stories.

Danger can come from many sources such as a serial killer, an avalanche, a tsunami, earthquake, a fight, war, stalker, etc.  Running for your life can definitely add tension.  I have named a few, but there are many more too numerous to mention.

Another way to add conflict is to have your hero and heroine work against each other.  An example:  Hero is a contractor who is determined to build apartments near a housing district, and the heroine is head of the neighborhood watch in the same area.  She gets a petition started against the building because she believes it will bring in the wrong element to their community.

Another example:  The hero is a fisherman on the Gulf Coast, and the heroine is the spokesperson for an oil company defending them after an oil spill in the gulf.  Just think of all the tension you can build in these scenarios.

Another type of conflict is inner conflict.  This is when a hero/heroine fights against the attraction they feel for one another.  This is inner conflict.  One or the other, or both may feel they shouldn't get together because they don't trust the other, or they may have insecurities they're fighting against. There are numerous reasons why they aren't able to get together, especially, when they are at odds like in the examples above.   

Secondary characters can add conflict: for instance an ex can come into the picture and cause all kinds of problems, or it can be a pet, a child, a job, a hobby, etc.  There are all kinds of ways to add tension to your story, so readers can't lay your book down until they finish reading the last page.

You can use multiple conflicts in your story, but you shouldn't overload your book with so much that your reader gets tired from running all over the place.  The tension in your book has to be realistic, or your reader will be pulled out of the story and think the author is crazy.  In other words, life doesn't always make sense, but your book better be logical, or you've lost your reader.

I have touched on a few ways to ratchet your story up, but there are many more. 

Good luck to all the writers out there, and thank you for reading my post. 


Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Sandy! I had to smile at your opening paragraph. Lord, my life has been nothing but discord. I value the quiet times. :)

Sandy said...

Thanks for coming by Tina. I was thinking of Marianne when I said there were exceptions to people having discord. I hope life calms down for you. Smile!

jean hart stewart said...

Excellent column, Sandy. Racking up the tension without overdoing it is a problem. You don't want a melodrama, but you do want the reader hooked. What's a poor author to do?

Cara Marsi said...

Good points, Sandy. I especially like where you said not to overload your story. Keep it simple is still the best motto.

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Sandy said...

LOL You're so right, Jean. What's a poor author to do?

Thanks, Cara. I agree.

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