I am in hardcore editor mode this month. Deadlines are looming. Contracts are pending. Submissions are stacking up. Layouts, covers, audio books, and revisions are in process. And I am ecstatic about all of it. Needless to say, I digress from my genre specific theme of recent weeks, partly because I have other things on my mind, and partly because I just don’t want to do the data research right now. We can come back to that topic later.
This week, the topic of conflict keeps coming up on the pages I read.
Or more specifically, the lack of conflict keeps coming up.
Let’s be clear.
No conflict on the page = boring.
Here’s the thing. Readers read books for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is for entertainment. Readers immerse themselves in novels because the story plays with their emotions. Readers want to be swept away. They want to feel the joy, terror, pain, and triumph of your characters. Readers want to be entertained.
Readers don’t want to be bored. I don’t want to be bored.
So let’s talk about conflict for a minute.
Conflict is the struggle your character has which makes your readers cry, or squirm, or hold their breath. Conflict is what makes your readers turn the page, and the next page, and the next page. Either the page has some amount of conflict, or the page is boring.
There are two kinds of conflict that you should consider as you write:
- External conflict: Those things that keep your protagonist from reaching the story goal.
- Internal conflict: Those thoughts and emotions that cause your protagonist to have self-doubts over the ability to achieve the story goal.
External conflict consists of things that happen to your character. Internal conflict is things that happen in your characters.
Here is an ultra-simplified breakdown of how to create conflict:
- Your character wants something.
- Your character acts to obtain said thing.
- Something else gets in the way so your character can’t have said thing
- Your character reacts to failure and then tries again.
If nothing happens on the page, and nothing happens inside your character, then you run the risk of reader boredom.
Don’t be boring.
Make sure something happens on the page, on each page. It can be something big, or something small, or something internal, or something external, but make the effort to add conflict to your pages. You will have happy readers (and editors) if you do that.