Is There Enough Conflict in Your Work

Is There Enough Conflict in Your Work

Is There Enough Conflict in Your Work

Posted on 10/19/2022 Evan Swensen
Is There Enough Conflict in Your Work

What is conflict in the literary sense? Conflict is to a story what motivation is to a murder. It’s the primary reason things happen and one of the things that keep a reader reading your work.

If your heroine goes off to find her fortune, and she finds a bunch of gold in the first cave she checks out just six feet down the road . . . Ho hum. There’s no conflict. There’s no story.

Now, if her family threatens to never speak to her again if she goes hunting for gold, and her fiancé’ says he’ll marry another girl if she’s not back in a year, and if she has to deal with evil claim jumpers and fight bandits who steal all her food in the middle of winter, and she breaks her arm falling in a pit mine, and she begins to regret the whole idea, and is pretty sure she’s not going to make it out alive, well! So now you have a story because you have conflict.

There are various kinds of conflict. First, there is a simple internal conflict: she might not make it out alive; that she’s regretting even trying.

Outside events or circumstances generate internal conflict: The fiancé says he’ll marry someone if she doesn’t come back within a year to the very day. You know she’s going to worry about that. Or the attitude of her family toward her venture.

Bad guys, accidents, weather, and other obstacles create conflict.

Your job is to keep the conflict realistic enough to maintain the reader’s suspension of disbelief and drastic enough to keep your reader turning pages to find out if your gal’s going to get out of the pit mine with a broken arm. [If. Don’t let it be a foregone conclusion, or there’s no story.]

And will she ever realize she might be better off without that lazy, unhelpful fiancé?

You get the idea—internal and external conflicts. And plenty of them. Pile ‘em up like pancakes.

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