Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Conflict? by Rita Karnopp

     We all know that conflict is the difficulty between the hero and heroine that threatens to keep them from getting together. It’s as simple as that.
     What we need to decide is what will cause our hero and heroine to be at odds with the other? What inhibits them from being too content? It all boils down to, what are they disagreeing about? Another important question is, what does the hero and heroine have at risk?  Once you ask that question be sure to ask, why is this situation so critical to each of them?  Oh, but more important, why is it important to your reader?
     So many people believe we show conflict by creating intense arguments or shouting matches, but two people can be locked in opposition without ever raising their voices, and they can also dispute nonstop without ever tackling the issue.
If an event delays the hero’s or heroine’s progress toward a goal it is only an incident. Consider this, if another character distracts the heroine to resolve an unconnected situation, and this distraction keeps her from confronting the hero, that’s not conflict.
     The one I hate the most is the story that tries using the ‘misunderstanding each other,’ as conflict.  Think about it, drawing the wrong assumption, jumping to conclusions, or wrongly judging one another are not instances of conflict.  They are merely the hero and heroine’s failure to communicate and make themselves understood.
     There is also the writer that uses the problematic interference of another person. Keep in mind that if the intrusion of another character causes glitches, your hero might appear passive and unable to take charge or stand up for himself or the heroine.  This is not how we want to our reader to perceive the hero.
     I don’t know about you, but I think in a relationship the hero should always be attracted to the heroine.  Oh, he might not want to find her quirky and irresistible, but that’s part of the conflict.  The extreme of his unwillingness to admit that the heroine is attractive doesn’t work. Characters wrangling  internally to not admit there is attraction can work, but keep in mind with this conflict lies triggering motives why it seems wrong or reckless to fall in love with this person.
     So, you see, even when creating conflict you need to make sure it’s believable.  Just creating two people who do nothing but argue, disagree, quarrel, dispute, bicker, and fight attraction does not create believable conflict. Always keep in mind there has to be a reason the hero and heroine are disagreeing.  Be sure to address, what does the hero and heroine have at risk?  Once you ask those questions be sure to ask, why is this situation critical to each of them?  And never forget to ask, why is it important to your reader?


Kim Smith said...

I sort of think that the conflict arising out of miscommunication and other people inserted has been a major problem for beginning writers from the get-go. Thanks for pointing out that it doesn't really work, and as in real life, conflict goes much deeper.

Rita Karnopp said...

You're right...conflict goes much deeper. If the conflict isn't strong enough - I think we just let the reader down. Thanks for your comment. :) Rita

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