Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Conflict and Life's Woes

As I walked to chemistry, ten minutes late for the millionth time this semester, I came to a realization: Life would be a whole lot easier if I were on time. Likewise, wouldn’t life be easier if you always remember where you put your keys? What if dishes and homework never got stacked up and completed themselves?
Life would be easy.
Life would be boring.
I cannot imagine everyday with no conflict. What would that even be like?Like life, conflict is essential for healthy novels. Have you ever read a book about a happy little girl with a perfect life where nothing ever goes wrong?
No? If she’s happy and conflict free--there is no book.

Four important points to conflict:

1. The problems have to be real. It needs to be something the reader cares about. Adjust this for the readers. Five year olds care about lost kittens. Teenagers care about man-eating kittens.

2. The conflict should not be resolved immediately. Simple solutions are boring and don’t allow for much growth. Don’t make it easy for your characters.

3. Don’t go overboard. Too much drama is melodrama. If there is more death and tragic accidents in your novel than mosquitoes in Florida, then it might be a bit much. Too much drama is, in fact, a bad thing.

4. The stakes have to be high. The conflict must leave the readers at the edge of their seat--unable to satisfy the primal needs of hunger and sleep until the problem is resolved.

A novel without conflict is like a pencil without lead. What’s the point?
Enjoy life’s little catastrophes: the spilled ketchup and the lost socks. At least it’s not dull.
Happy writing!