How much conflict is enough?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Elizabeth Elizabeth 3 weeks ago.

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  • #32555
    Profile photo of bethanysinkyroses
    bethanysinkyroses
    Participant

    Hello fellow scribblers.
    I had an idea for a slice-of-life story about a young shy girl’s struggle with making friends, and her ups and downs in her walk with the Lord. My question is: will a story of that nature actually interest people, and will it have enough conflict?
    What are some pitfalls I need to avoid with slice-of-life? Any tips are welcome.

    #32559
    Profile photo of Daeus
    Daeus
    Moderator

    @bethanysinkyroses I’m a strong believer that a skilled writer can make almost anything exciting. You do need conflict to create an interesting story, but conflict doesn’t have to be what you might think it is. Conflict is not actually the same as people fighting (verbally or physically). I’ve encountered plenty of physical or other forms of fighting that have been as dull as rubber coated paperclips.

    The recipe for conflict is goal + opposition = conflict. Therefore, if a tough proclaims he doesn’t like character x and then he goes and beats up character x, that is not conflict. If a little girl needs to get to a friend’s birthday party because she thinks she might have offended her friend and she needs to resolve things quickly (the deeper the goal, the better), but her mom is sleeping like a log from the redwood forest and there is no one else to drive her — *takes deep breath* — then that is conflict.

    My customary warning for people who try to write stories about characters who have a great weakness, know they have a great weakness, and try to overcome it is that you need to make sure that the story doesn’t happen all inside their head. What I mean is, characters who realize there’s something wrong with them often spend a long time thinking over the issue. Thinking isn’t a story though. You want to show your character’s development by how she acts.

    #32561
    Profile photo of bethanysinkyroses
    bethanysinkyroses
    Participant

    Thanks, @daeus I actually just listened to your lesson on conflict two days ago, and so the added insight was helpful!
    If I’m showing her thought process, and then how she acts, and how she changes, is that sufficient “conflict” (I’ll use quotes to show I’m not discussing warfare) for a book of this genre?

    For example, the first part to my “conflict” for the MC is: her family is visiting a new church. She doesn’t want to make friends and offends someone accidentally. Then a nicer, less shy girl reaches out to her. Later, she has to try and overcome her fear of talking on the phone when this same girl calls her. Will that work? (I do intend to develop her character more throughout the story, and perhaps the points of tension will change.)

    #32565
    Profile photo of Daeus
    Daeus
    Moderator

    @bethanysinkyroses Ah, yes. That is what I was trying to get to.

    All of this is perfectly doable, but you need to approach it from the right mindset.

    What you need to understand is the difference between a wish and a goal. A goal is proactive. A wish is passive.

    A wish is like this: “I really don’t want to talk to anyone on the phone.” *cries tears of agony as she picks up the phone*

    A goal is like this: “Oh, no! The phone’s ringing! How can I get my extremely overbearing and chatty sister to pick up the phone so she’ll take over the conversation and I won’t have to talk with so and so?” *tries to get sister to pick up phone* *fails* *phone stops ringing* *phone rings again* *sister pushes her to pick up* *She tries to make excuses why she shouldn’t* *sister isn’t convinced and practically forces her to pick up the phone*

    There’s a time and place for wishes, but they don’t create conflict. If you can base your story around goals, I think you could write something really good.

    The conflict that will arise when your character’s goal is opposed will be the most helpful thing in getting your protagonist to change. People don’t like conflict, so it’s one of the biggest teaching tools for them.

    Does that answer your question?

    #32578
    Profile photo of Anne of Lothlorien
    Anne of Lothlorien
    Participant

    @bethanysinkyroses I definitely think a story of that kind would interest people. There is a very well-known Christian book, Stepping Heavenward. I’ve never read it personally, but many people I know enjoyed it, and from my understanding, it is just the kind of book you are thinking about writing.

    Conflict is hard. I have no sage advice, since I just starting seriously writing myself. Listen to Daeus, I think he’s wise or something.

    #32625
    Profile photo of bethanysinkyroses
    bethanysinkyroses
    Participant

    Yes, @daeus, that was very helpful. Now I’m off to make sure my character has a goal as she’s struggling with shyness! And figure out how her goals will change as she changes.
    @anne-of-lothlorien I love Stepping Heavenward! It’s on my “Top Ten Books I Recommend To Girls” list. Thank you too for the “reader feedback.” That reminds me…I have to go read Daeus’s survey. I’ve been waiting since I took it to get the results!

    #32632
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Participant

    Well, I hesitate to give advice on anything of this sort–someone can always make it sound better–but here goes: Don’t make it easy.
    Conflict is good. Conflict propels people forward, generates realistic reactions that create character and give insight into character personality.
    Don’t make it easy. Life happens. People are rude. Well-meaning people get rejected and have to deal with the consequences. Life-long relationships are forged in the simplest of conversations.

    Erm, there’s my two cents. @bethanysinkyroses

    #32635
    Profile photo of bethanysinkyroses
    bethanysinkyroses
    Participant

    I’ll remember that, Elizabeth: don’t make it easy! (Do you hear that, Grace? And you were just accepting my control of your life!). Sorry, awkward character interaction for a moment.

    #32638
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Participant

    Oh, don’t worry, I have those all the time.

    (Listen, Kara, you’re going to have to get out of that cell and into the world at some point)

    See? My MC isn’t listening to me. *growls*

    @bethanysinkyroses

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