Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Conflict = The reason we read novels. The reason we watch movies.

Conflict is the number one reason we read novels. If there is no conflict the story is boring. And if there is no conflict in the very first page of your novel, chances are no one will continue to read it.

Conflict: noun:
 a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one: the eternal conflict between the sexes | doctors often come into conflict with politicians.
• a prolonged armed struggle: overseas conflicts.• an incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests: there was a conflict between his business and domestic life.• Psychology a condition in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs.
The types of conflict in literature are:
  • Internal Conflict: 
                                    MAN vs. SELF
  • External Conflict: 
                                    MAN vs. MAN 
                                    MAN vs. NATURE
                                    MAN vs. SOCIETY                                    MAN vs. FATE

Internal Conflict arises when your main character has internal issues with him or herself. The issues usually stem from four main sources, and must be resolved by the MC alone.

  1. MORALITYnoun ( pl. moralities )principles concerning the distinctionbetween right and wrong or good andbad behavior.• a particular system of values andprinciples of conduct, esp. one held by a specified person or society: a bourgeois morality.• the extent to which an action is right or wrong: behind all the arguments lies the issue of the morality of the possession of nuclear weapons.
  2. FATEnounthe development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power: fate decided his course for him | his injury is a cruel twist of fate .• the course of someone's life, or the outcome of a particular situation for someone or something, seen as beyond their control: he suffered the same fate as his companion.• in sing. ] the inescapable death of a person: the guards led her to her fate.( the Fates )Greek & Roman Mythology the three goddesses who preside over the birth and life of humans. Each person's destiny was thought of as a thread spun, measured, and cut by the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Also called the Moirai and the Parcae.• ( Fates ) another term for Norns.
  3. BELIEFnounan acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists: his belief in the value of hard work | a belief that solitude nourishes creativity.• something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction:contrary to popular belief, Aramaic is a livinglanguage | we're prepared to fight for our beliefs.• a religious conviction: Christian beliefs |I'm afraid to say belief has gone | local beliefs and customs.(belief intrust, faith, or confidence in someone or something: a belief in democratic politics | I've still got belief in myself.

DESIRE :nounstrong feeling of wanting to havesomething or wishing for something to happen: [ with infinitive ] a desire to work in the dirt with your bare hands.• strong sexual feeling or appetite: they were clinging together in fierce mutual desire.verb [ with obj. ]strongly wish for or want (something): he never achieved the status he so desired | (asadj. desiredit failed to create the desired effect.• want (someone) sexually: there had been a time, years ago, when he had desired her.• archaic express a wish to (someone); request or entreat.

External Conflict arises when your main character has issues with an outside source. These must be resolved between both parties. 

  1. NATUREnounthe phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features andproducts of the earthas opposed tohumans or human creations: the breathtaking beauty of nature.• the physical force regarded as causing and regulating these phenomena: it isimpossible to change the laws of nature. See also Mother Nature.
  2. COMMUNITYnoun ( pl. communities )a group of people living in the same place or having a particularcharacteristic in common: Rhode Island'sJapanese community | the scientific community.• a group of people living together inone place, esp. one practicing common ownership: a community of nuns.• a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants: a rural community.• a body of nations or states unified by common interests: [ in names ] the European Community | the African Economic Community.• (the communitythe people of adistrict or country consideredcollectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities; society:preparing prisoners for life back in the community.• as modifier ] denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area: community health services.

  3. GOVERNMENTnoun treated as sing. or pl. ] the governing body of a nation, state, or community:an agency of the federal government | [ asmodifier ] government controls.• the system by which a nation, state, or community is governed: a secular, pluralistic, democratic government.• the action or manner of controlling or regulating a nation, organization, or people: rules for the government of the infirmary.• the group of people in office at a particular time; administration: the election of the new government.• another term for political science.

  4. OTHER CHARACTERS a person in a novel, play, or movie.• a part played by an actor.• with adj. ] person seen in terms of aparticular aspect of character: he was alarger-than-life character | shady characters.• informal an interesting or amusingindividual: he's a real character.

  5. SOCIETYnoun ( pl. societies )the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community: drugs,crimeand other dangers to society.• the community of people living in aparticular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations:the high incidence of violence in American society | modern industrial societies.• with adj. ] a specified section of such a community: no one in polite society utteredthe word.• (also high society )the aggregate of people who are fashionable, wealthy, and influential, regarded as forming a distinct group in a community: [ asmodifier ] a society wedding.• a plant or animal organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity: [ in namesthe American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.the situation of being in the company of other people: she shunned the society of others.
  6. FATEnoun nounthe development of events beyond aperson's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power: fate decided his course for him | his injury is a cruel twist of fate .• the course of someone's life, or theoutcome of a particular situation forsomeone or something, seen as beyond their control: he suffered the same fate as his companion.• in sing. ] the inescapable death of a person: the guards led her to her fate.( the Fates )Greek & Roman Mythology the three goddesses who preside over the birth and life of humans. Each person's destiny was thought of as a thread spun, measured, and cut by the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Also called the Moirai and the Parcae.• ( Fates ) another term for Norns.
Think of your favorite novel, TV show, or movie. What was the conflict of the main character? Did he or she want something they couldn't get? Did they hate something and want to destroy it? Did they hate themselves for some reason? The answer is yes. There was conflict, or the book, show, or movie would not have made it into print or video. 
I've found during critique groups, and MFA classes, that many newbie writers believe they have conflict in their stories. They don't. They may have a small issue the character is dealing with, but not major conflict. 
The conflict you choose for your MC must carry through the entire book. It must be the main drive of the character to move forward or retreat backwards. Big conflicts are good, but horribly, unbelievable, make you want to give up conflicts are better.
When my main character, Benjamina Corbin, finds out that the day she refuses to go camping with her dad is the day he disappears in the woods she has major conflict. She had external conflict with him - a fight that now she regrets. She has internal conflict with herself and the guilt she feels - which makes her ultimately go into the woods to find him.
This conflict carries the entire story. Through the whole book she feels guilt, remorse, anger and hurt stemming from him missing. She fights friends and new enemies to find him... This conflict only ends in the last chapter once her dad is found. 
My advice is to up your conflict. When you think you have a teeth clenching, tear jerking, jaw dropping battle then you're ready to write. 

Every page should have conflict. This does not mean an all out battle. But the main conflict should be there in the tension of your MC. Whether your MC is silent, curt, rude, or hurt, the reader should feel the internal and/or external conflicts. 
Conflict keeps the reader turning the pages. Put your MC in very difficult situations. If there is a place where your MC can get hurt physically or emotionally, do it. Put your MC in all sorts of scary, sad, and angry situations. 
As and exercise:Pull out a random chapter in your novel. Open up a new blank document. Now up the conflicts. Explode them. Take them to the extreme. Even if the voice in your head tells you this is ridiculous, do it. Then read them both out loud. Which one would keep you tuning the page?
As always...good luck and keep writing.


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