|Photo Credit: Shiny Things, Creative Commons|
The thing to keep in mind when we are writing is that the core of a story is conflict. I know I have caught myself going easy on my protagonist. Sometimes I just miss opportunities to heap a little extra conflict on because I start thinking how I might react in a situation and then write my way out of it instead of letting it unfold in a way that will actually increase the drama, and the stakes for the character, making the story a little richer in the process. Without conflict there is no story. And even though we have sympathy for our creations, maybe even love, we still have to punish them for the sake of the story. Conflict is the engine of our story and if we keep finding an easy path out of trouble it just makes for a lot of prose without a whole lot actually going on. The fiction becomes lifeless.
One of my instructors shared a story about getting a manuscript from an elderly neighbor who told him it was a memoir of their life. It was thousands of pages long and in the form of journal entries that covered decades, but even though there were so many volumes there was no actual story. She had led a very easy life with almost no conflict. How do you tell someone that their life story doesn’t really have a story? It was tough I’m certain, but the bottom line is without struggle or strife there is nothing to hang the story’s hat on.
Every scene should have a purpose to move the story along and little conflicts drive scenes. Not every scene has to have something epic, but there needs to be some point of contention. I read recently that you should never have two people in a scene that agree with each other. The person that agrees is simply redundant. It’s fine to have them in the background, but the core conflict for that scene should be between opposing stances.
Pay attention to the little opportunities that pop up to add some tension.
Now go write.