“Let’s be clear about one thing: conflict must be in each scene in your book. Every. Single. One.” ~ Justine
Jenny Crusie also has a great set of posts all about conflict on her Writing/Romance blog, full of details and examples. With all of these discussions, along with our McDaniel class notes and presentations, I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the role conflict plays in building a strong, engaging story.
“Conflict is a specific struggle between two people, the escalating action of which moves the story forward.” ~ Jenny Crusie
But . . .
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks in waiting rooms and on airplanes, which means I’ve been doing a lot of reading. That reading has included books by first time writers, authors I’ve read and enjoyed before, New York Times bestsellers, RITA award winners, and fan favorites. In many of stories the character goals are established but I’m not seeing conflict in every scene. Overarching story conflict, yes, but scene-by-scene conflict, not so much.
When conflict exists in the story and is well established, the goals of the protagonist and the antagonist in the story are clearly identifiable.
For example, I’m on page 95 of the current book I’m reading and I can’t really tell you what the main conflict in the story is. I’ve met the male and female characters who will wind up living “happily ever after” at the end, but I don’t know what either of them truly wants. Things have happened in the individual scenes, but nothing really feels like it is Conflict. In fact, some of the scenes may very well have been heavy with back story (gasp!).
But . . .
I’m really enjoying the book so far and looking forward to finishing it.
When I take off my “reading like a writer” hat, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. The characters are interesting and I want to know what is going to happen as the story progresses. I’m not feeling that “oh my goodness, what’s going to happen next” tension, but I’m being pulled along by the story nonetheless. I’m getting the “enjoyment” and “escape” that I look for from a book.
Which leads me to conclude that either:
The conflict is there and I just don’t recognize it
Every single scene does not have to have conflict
So help me out here. What are your thoughts on conflict? I recognize major Conflict, but what does smaller, nuanced conflict in a story look like? Examples, please.