Today’s post is about two different kinds of conflict. One is the conflict between a writers goals and the realities of life (calling back to last weeks post), and the other is on conflict in your story.
First, on goals. Like I said last week, goals are awesome. Set them. Small ones are good until you know you can meet them. I thought 500 words a day was great. I’m still going to try to hold to it, even though Ive failed miserable this last week *grin*
Inevitably, life is going to interfere with your goal. Work, moving, life, small children, crazy animals, the next door neighbours decision to play Eminem at 130 decibels at 2am… all of these things can affect you meeting your writing goal. This is why my goal also has a per week amount, as I can make up the words on the weekend. As long as I’m making the secondary goal of 2500 words a week, I’m still achieving something.
Now. Conflict IN your story. Do you have it? If you don’t, why are you writing this story? Note I’m not asking if you have fighting or action in your story, conflict is very different. What are your characters goals, and who is opposing them and why? The usual spiel of options for conflict is man vs man, man vs society, man vs environment and man vs self (please replace man with woman if that is appropriate for you).
Conflict drives stories. Without conflict, your main characters happily lolligags his or her way along to achieving all their goals and getting everything they want. That degree of escapist fantasy is probably best left to video games with cheat codes active. Sometimes its fun, but its not the most exciting thing to read.
Your character has goals, and something opposes them. The goals may change over the course of the story. Who opposes those goals may change. But at each point in the story, there needs to be some conflict driving your plot.
For example, Shadows of the Grey Tower is about a young street thief turned mage. During the course of the book he receives several permanently crippling injuries. For the early part of the book, he has a Man vs Self conflict about his origins and some of the habits he picked up there, and his worth to be a mage. For most of the book, he struggles with a Man vs Self conflict over his being a cripple, something it takes the character years to reconcile himself with. At the end of the book, he faces a significant Man vs Self conflict with his own arrogance, as he slowly grows into one of the greatest Mages alive.
There are also huge Man vs Man conflicts (there is a war that rages throughout the book, weaving in and out of the foreground of the story, as well as personal opponents who target the main character for various reasons) and a couple of Man vs Society conflicts and at least one sequence where its Man vs Environment to stay alive.
Each of these conflicts helps define the portion of the plot its involved in, and the story in general. The development and resolution of these conflicts is key to the character development of many of the characters.
Without conflict, nothing and no one changes. If nothing changes over the course of your story… well, who cares what happened, it obviously wasn’t important!
Conflict, of course, in many stories (especially mine) leads to combat. Which will be the subject of a blog post sometime next week. Possibly even this weekend if I make my goal. We’ll see.