Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CONFLICT - Sarah Duncan

Another great quote about conflict that I had in my RNA Workshop handout. This time it's from Sarah Duncan - you can find more about Sarah and her writing on her web site.

Thank you to Sarah for letting me use this here.

In real life most of us avoid conflict, but our characters should embrace it. Without conflict there is no drama, and without drama the writing is dull. But because we get brought up to smooth over disagreements there's a tendency to smooth over them in our writing too, even the little conflicts that we hardly notice - who took the last of the milk, where's my pen?
No conflict = boring to read.

So, how to add conflict? First think about the levels of conflict.

Conflict in your head - eg doubts, uncertainty, anxieties, negative personality traits.
Conflict with your body - eg ill health, physical disabilities.
Conflict with your family - eg domineering parents, disobedient children
Conflict with friends - eg rows over actions
Conflict with lovers - eg adultery, desertion, betrayal
Conflict with institutions - eg the tax office, the law
Conflict with individuals in society - eg policeman, traffic warden, doctor
Conflict with the environment - eg floods, cold weather, drought (natural) war, concrete jungle (manmade)

Now think about your main character. Going through the list, how many conflicts could your character potentially have.

Now I'm not suggesting that all these conflicts will have a large place in your writing, but they should be there supplying the grit that will create a beautiful pearl. Make your characters struggle against life, make life hard for them in every way, large or small, you can come up with. Isn't that why characters like Scarlett O'Hara, James Bond and Jane Eyre still resonate today? We follow their struggles and relish seeing them triumph in the end.


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