Friday, October 03, 2008
Writing Tip: Creating Conflict
Writing Tip: Creating Conflict
Conflict is the stress factor, which not only propels the character to change, but also keeps the reader turning pages. By definition in literature, conflict is plot tension: opposition between or among characters or forces in a literary work that shapes or motivates the action of the character. No matter what genre, the conflict creates the drama, which is the backbone of the story. Without the suspense it creates, there would be no reason for the reader to be drawn in to the tale.
Conflict is not limited to physical altercation, but involves any plot twist, turn or ploy that causes emotional, spiritual or physical distress. Threatening to punch someone can create fear, but so withholding love can have the same effect. One is physical the other is emotion, yet they can have the same result. It is the stressor that causes discord and confusion within and around the main character. However, story conflict involves more than a single event; it is better described as a building of scenes one on another like a staircase, until the character has limited choices. By narrowing the character's options, her or his possibilities are limited, thereby forcing the character into a crisis situation. If done correctly, the readers are further drawn into the story, as they anticipating the next plot twists and the eventual resolution.
Traditionally there are four conflict themes to both short stories and novels, however, in From Blank Page to Book Shelves, there is a fifth.
Man against himself
Man against man
Man against nature
Man against God or spirituality
Man against Fate or Karma (This is explained in From Blank Page to Book Shelves.)
Each theme is a generic conflict category, which help organize the characters and plot. They help define the roles of the characters in relation to their challenges. In this case, man is used as a generic term for person or main character; sometimes the central character isn’t human, but term would still apply. It is the focal point character to which I refer. In small pieces, such as short stories, there is only one conflict theme. However, in longer pieces such as novellas and novels, there are usually diverse characters so there can be more than one theme or a series interdependent themes that guide the reader to the central conflict.
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