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Conflict is an Essential Ingredient in Your Story

posted 24 Feb 2013, 08:17 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 08:18 ]

Most types of story, whether short stories or novels,
absolutely need that vital ingredient: the conflict.
Preferably more than one. You may well have your characters
all fleshed out and ready to go, but don't give them an
easy ride! Bring some angst into their lives, your readers
will love it!

Conflict is not necessarily physical violence or fast
action, although it certainly can be this. James Bond and
Indiana Jones offer this in buckets. But they also have
other types of conflict, sometimes quite subtle, which the
writers bring to the mix.

Conflict can be conflict of purpose, conflict of
ideologies, conflict in social standing and, of course, the
inner conflict where the character is torn between two
courses of action which they have to wrestle with and
decide upon.

The most significant conflict is often placed towards the
beginning of the story. This immediately gets the attention
of the reader who wants to know how the hero overcomes it,
battles through the rough seas until he emerges in calmer
waters a better, wiser and more mature person than he was.

If you are writing a novel there should be a series of
problems or conflicts that the hero or heroine has to work
through, thus keeping the reader on the edge of his seat
eager to know how they are going to extricate themselves.
For a short story you may want to limit the amount of
conflict situations you introduce or you may bring your
readers out in a sweat as they desperately struggle to
understand what on earth is going on. Yes, for a short
story less is more.

Use conflict to show what kind of people your story is
populated with. You can explore the inner depths, strengths
and weaknesses they have and show how they react in various
ways to the problems. In fact you can produce a conflict
out of the attitude or flaws of one of your characters and
then describe how he and your other characters deal with

It is true that most conflict situations involve
differences between people, but it can be used in other
ways. Perhaps your hero is battling against nature,
surviving in an inhospitable environment, perhaps he or she
is the sole able bodied survivor of a road, rail or air
crash. How do they overcome these obstacles to win through?

Don't be afraid to confront your characters with conflict
after conflict. This will bring out the mettle in them and
develop their character. But have a heart. Give the poor
things a little respite between each bout of problems so
that both they and the reader can catch their breath before
tackling the next one.

About the Author:

Mervyn Love writes on several topics including creative
writing. His website  has a
mind-boggling array of resources, articles and links to
keep any writer happy for hours. Subscribe to the
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