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25.05.2011 23:19    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Writing  Writing Conflict  Mervyn Love  Writing      Tags: conflict  backbone  story  

Most types of story, whether short stories or novels, absolutely need that vital ingredient: the conflict. Preferably more than one. You may well have your characters all fleshed out and ready to go, but don't give them an easy ride! Bring some angst into their lives, your readers will love it!

Conflict is not necessarily physical violence or fast action, although it certainly can be this. James Bond and Indiana Jones offer this in buckets. But they also have other types of conflict, sometimes quite subtle, which the writers bring to the mix.

Conflict can be conflict of purpose, conflict of ideologies, conflict in social standing and, of course, the inner conflict where the character is torn between two courses of action which they have to wrestle with and decide upon.

The most significant conflict is often placed towards the beginning of the story. This immediately gets the attention of the reader who wants to know how the hero overcomes it, battles through the rough seas until he emerges in calmer waters a better, wiser and more mature person than he was.

If you are writing a novel there should be a series of problems or conflicts that the hero or heroine has to work through, thus keeping the reader on the edge of his seat eager to know how they are going to extricate themselves. For a short story you may want to limit the amount of conflict situations you introduce or you may bring your readers out in a sweat as they desperately struggle to understand what on earth is going on. Yes, for a short story less is more.

Use conflict to show what kind of people your story is populated with. You can explore the inner depths, strengths and weaknesses they have and show how they react in various ways to the problems. In fact you can produce a conflict out of the attitude or flaws of one of your characters and then describe how he and your other characters deal with that.

It is true that most conflict situations involve differences between people, but it can be used in other ways. Perhaps your hero is battling against nature, surviving in an inhospitable environment, perhaps he or she is the sole able bodied survivor of a road, rail or air crash. How do they overcome these obstacles to win through?

Don't be afraid to confront your characters with conflict after conflict. This will bring out the mettle in them and develop their character. But have a heart. Give the poor things a little respite between each bout of problems so that both they and the reader can catch their breath before tackling the next one.

About the Author

Mervyn Love writes on several topics including creative writing. His website Writers Reign has a mind-boggling array of resources, articles and links to keep any writer happy for hours.

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