Writing Tips for Budding Writers – Conflict
While these writing tips have assisted people I’ve coached, I do not offer any guarantees. I merely hope it might help stoke the fire burning within and get you started on a writing journey.
Your pre-writing days are nearly over. You’ve got your story idea (plot) and your characters but have you figured out what motivates those characters? There must be conflict! This is vital! While it must be strong enough to last the complete story it must also be resolvable. In a romance story conflict comes from giving your characters two goals, needs, wants, longings, yearnings or desires that are in direct opposition to each other.
There are two types of conflict:
Internal Conflict – Comes from within the character, from their background, personality or beliefs: its a character flaw, an emptiness, a fear. eg. abuse
External Conflict – Comes from any situation the plot places the characters in. Provided by Acts of God, social or family pressure, forbidden relationship, battle over money/inheritance, secret baby, fake marriage, pregnancy etc.
External conflict might bring your characters together, eg. stuck in a cabin during a snowstorm, but internal conflict (eg, she might have trust issues because he’s exactly like the father who abandoned her as a child) works to keep them apart.
So what is the conflict between your characters? I suggest you have only one major conflict to last the whole story with lesser conflicts – both internal and external – which resolve themselves during the story. Internal conflict is always much stronger. Some examples include: Fear of abandonment, being dependent, commitment: Need to belong, need for acceptance, security, order, freedom.
The idea is to have the characters overcome whatever internal conflict divides them or stops them from achieving their goal. They need to grow and change between page one and the end. This is what makes your story.
Jot down every conflict imaginable for your story idea. Chose one strong enough to last a whole story. Then see which lesser conflicts – often external – could test that conflict. A romance story example might be: She is terrified of the sea (you can weave in what bad experience in the past caused this) then falls for a sailor who scoffs at the dangers of boats and sailing. She tries to hide her fear from him but little things keep happening to erode this like experiencing a rocking dinghy, her inability to swim, her pretending to get seasick, any number of things to stop him taking her sailing, or realising her fear.
Particularly if your story is a romance, remember that conflict is the key!