Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (First Installment)

conflict wordWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. Last time, in Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment (the first of two) is about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

Before getting into the meat of this, let’s set some expectations about conflict:

  1. Conflict is necessary in commercial fiction. Period. No conflict? No story. People don’t want to read about characters who get what they want with no issues or impediments. They want to see characters suffer and earn their rewards.
  2. Conflict is a struggle to reach a goal and should have the reader wondering whether or not the character will achieve it.
  3. Conflict is bad things happening to good and bad
  4. Conflict must be clear, but not overwhelming. It can be too big/too much, drowning your reader in seemingly insurmountable problems.
  5. Conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be one person pitted against another. Sometimes the conflict is circumstances.

Debra Dixon, in “GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict,” makes it very clear:

“If conflict makes you uncomfortable or you have difficulty wrecking the lives of your characters, you need to consider another line of work. In commercial fiction you need strife, tension, dissension, and opposition. If you omit these elements, you won’t be able to sustain the reader’s attention. Even in romance novels – known for their happy endings, sufficient conflict must exist to make the reader doubt the happily-ever-after.”

The net-net? Continue reading

Justine: Conflict. Wait…What?

Trouble is coming. Or is it conflict? Image (c) 1950 Disney Animation Studios.

Trouble is coming. Or is it conflict?
Image (c) 1950 Disney Animation Studios.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last week reading through the second half of Three Proposals (and highlighting á la Margie Lawson’s EDITS). I’m amazed at how crappy it all is. I mean it! I might have done some good, award-winning work on the front end, but the back end is just that…a back end. Mind you, I finished that draft nearly two years ago (??seriously??), but good grief…apparently I hadn’t yet learned the lesson about “sittin’ and thinkin’” or “conversation for conversation’s sake.”

I certainly didn’t know about conflict. Well, maybe in theory, but not in practice. There are several scenes I’ve written where I have to look HARD to find it, and in many instances, it’s not there. What is there is trouble, but that’s not the same thing.

Now, the good thing about that is Continue reading

Justine: That ‘Ol Conflict Thing Again

Okay, I will admit that Christmas vacation and having the kids home from school totally screws up my sense of what day it is and I thought today was Monday. Obviously not. Since I don’t usually plan my blog posts ahead and I doubt I could come up with something original this morning with two kids running around, a husband who’s home, and two parents (mine!) who I need to get to the airport in about 30 minutes, I’m going to repost something from last year’s series of craft-focused posts, New Year, New Writer. Today’s topic is my old nemesis (and the nemesis of a couple of the other Eight Ladies):

Conflict.

It’s relevant to me as I start thinking beyond Three Proposals to the next book(s) I want to work on.

Happy reading and I promise to have my act together next week (after all, the kids go back to school next Tuesday!). Continue reading