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Thread: My main conflict

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Niki03's Avatar
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    My main conflict

    So I'm curious about something.
    I'm editing my manuscript and I'm wondering if there is a specific spot where your main conflict should be spelled out.
    In mine, my mc works through a bunch of small conflicts that point to the main conflict in my novel. But it's just before half way through where she sits down and figures out what is going on and a little bit longer to discover who is responsible. Is that too late? Is there a too late?
    This is probably a really stupid question. I apologize. I did actually Google it and look through some threads, but I didn't really find an answer.

  2. #2
    Willing to Learn MythMonger's Avatar
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    It'll depend on a lot of things.

    Does the reader know (or could the reader reasonably guess) what the main conflict is before the MC? If so, you risk discouraging the reader before the MC makes the discovery.

    Lots of other factors to consider, but this popped into my head first.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Niki03's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MythMonger View Post

    Does the reader know (or could the reader reasonably guess) what the main conflict is before the MC? If so, you risk discouraging the reader before the MC makes the discovery.
    I don't think so. At least, I don't think it's glaringly obvious and none of my betas or CPs have said they figured it out early. Most recently I got a comment about how it was an exciting twist. It's obvious something is going on and she's working out what it is.

    I just wonder if there is a point where it should be. Some rule. Like "one third (a quarter, whatever) of the way through, you're mc should know what the main problem is and be working to solve it.

    I've read stuff where you don't know what is going on until the end, but I don't know if that is an exception to the rule, because I don't know the rule. Can it be wherever you want, as long as the story is engaging enough to keep readers?

  4. #4
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    I think it depends on the type of conflict. If it's a huge twist, then I think it's fine if the reader has no idea, and it's not happening too soon. To use a super popular example, in The Fault in Our Stars, I don't think Augustus admits he's dying until past halfway (pretty sure, could be wrong). Same with Clueless, even though that's a movie. Either way, as long as the pacing is otherwise good and there are interesting conflicts happening throughout, there shouldn't be a problem bringing in the main conflict late.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Isn't conflict pretty much all we write about? I don't just mean fist fights and war, but emotional conflicts etc. Romance novels have conflicts just as much as murder mysteries do IMO.

    So your whole story is relating to a conflict. Conflicts build, peak, then ebb, and that's what I write about. My stories start with a trigger... the conflict may have already been there, lying in wait, but the trigger is usually the start of it, or an event that will play into the resolution of the conflict later. Stores end once the main conflict has been resolved. Generally they should peak toward the end of your story.

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    After your character figures out what's going on, and then finds who's responsible, what does she do? It sounds like what she does next is the real conflict. Having the mystery solved just before half the novel is fine, it just means there's a shift from mystery to action, and to be honest, I don't think it matters when that shift occurs. But I agree with some other posters here, the action should build up to its peak near the end.

  7. #7
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    It's a fine line we tread when we try to conceal what is happening.

    It's the difference between a reader being interested and wanting to know what happens next, and being confused and not caring what happens next.
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  8. #8
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    Typically it should be clear somewhere by the third chapter. That's the cutoff point for a lot of readers before they abandon the book if they feel it's lacking direction. It would be better if it's obvious within the first chapter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Niki03 View Post
    So I'm curious about something.
    In mine, my mc works through a bunch of small conflicts that point to the main conflict in my novel. But it's just before half way through where she sits down and figures out what is going on and a little bit longer to discover who is responsible. Is that too late? Is there a too late?
    Btw, your character understanding what is going on is not the same as your reader understanding what the main conflict is. Even if your character is clueless, will you reader know what the story is about?
    Last edited by chompers; 05-19-2017 at 03:12 PM.

  9. #9
    Writer? WriterDude's Avatar
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    I think that if the small conflicts are interesting enough to carry the story long enough to reveal the big baddie later on, it shouldn't be a problem.

    I hope its not a problem because that's what I'm writing too, but if it is, we'll just have to carve out a niche in the market and make it popular.

    The bit I'm struggling with, are the hints that point to the real bad being obvious or not obvious enough before the reveal. I think the principle is sound though.

  10. #10
    Back on Track Carrie in PA's Avatar
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    What do you mean by "spell it out"?

    Let's say it's a mystery. Your character has a series of small conflicts to work through and realizes they are connected. You don't need her to say, "Hark! I must locate the perpetrator of these crimes!" We'll know that. If it's a romance and a woman meets a man and they share a cute moment, you don't need to have one of them say, "Behold! I must make this person love me!" because we'll know that's the whole point of the book before we even begin reading.

    Many times, the main conflict is obvious simply by virtue of the genre. Find the murderer. Rescue the princess. Colonize the planet. You don't really need to have a specific spell it out moment because the story naturally unfolds in that direction. Trust your reader.

    As in all things, just get it written, and then see where it needs work.
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Tension needs to build, small conflicts building to a crescendo, and finally a resolution. The main conflict, or point of the story, can remain unspoken but really every word you write will be about it. "Conflict" can be an odd word to use though. For me it's all about the character and their arc or development over the span of the story. Conflicts occur on that path, often with a large one toward the end, leaving your MC in a different place than they were in the beginning.

  12. #12
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    I think there is a broad conscensus that conflict should peak near the end and the denouement should follow immediately. That makes a lot of sense. It's also what is done in movies.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW vicky271's Avatar
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    If you don't want to reveal your main conflict, hints may help. Or a suggestion. Then, use small conflicts to distract your audience until the main conflict pops up later in the book.
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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW DarienW's Avatar
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    There's a lot of free Beat Sheets you can google for and download. Try plugging your conflicts into the suggested format and see where it lands. It helped me a lot, though I'd already pants through most of the story before I checked.

    I do think readers like twists, so if it's one that comes later, I think that's a plus.

    Best of luck!

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  15. #15
    You Are My Density Gateway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niki03 View Post
    So I'm curious about something.
    I'm editing my manuscript and I'm wondering if there is a specific spot where your main conflict should be spelled out.
    In mine, my mc works through a bunch of small conflicts that point to the main conflict in my novel. But it's just before half way through where she sits down and figures out what is going on and a little bit longer to discover who is responsible. Is that too late? Is there a too late?
    This is probably a really stupid question. I apologize. I did actually Google it and look through some threads, but I didn't really find an answer.
    You're actually showing and resolving the conflict throughout the story. There are various models as to where it is exactly spelled out (show vs tell) - one model advocates the debate is spelled out before the break into act two.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Tension needs to build, small conflicts building to a crescendo, and finally a resolution. The main conflict, or point of the story, can remain unspoken but really every word you write will be about it. "Conflict" can be an odd word to use though. For me it's all about the character and their arc or development over the span of the story. Conflicts occur on that path, often with a large one toward the end, leaving your MC in a different place than they were in the beginning.
    Right. Also, to spell it out--questions. Constant questions, suspicions, attempts to figure out if there's something else behind all this. Once the reader is primed and shaking with the desire to see the answer--the answer becomes a sort of climactic bridge, after which the second half of the plot kicks in. The big reveal doesn't have to be at the start, but there needs to be a trail of rising tension and louder questions leading up to it.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW Niki03's Avatar
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    This seemed like such a silly question, these answers were all very helpful. Thank you everyone!

  18. #18
    I got it covered Undercover's Avatar
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    I think as long as the reader has a clear idea of what the story is about, you'll be fine. There should be some sort of conflicting things happening. It doesn't have to be the big conflict of the book. Like others have mentioned, building up the main conflict with smaller ones, that all connect.

    It's not a stupid question. It's actually an important question to ask. Novels have to have some sort of conflict or it wouldn't be a story.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW Niki03's Avatar
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    Right. And she has a lot of little conflicts that lead to the big conflict. Each resolution leads her closer to that big issue.

  20. #20
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I hope it's not a problem as this is similar in my novel. The MC fights many battles along the way all leading up to the final battle at the end. I have a small twist in that the main bad guy is just looking out for his people and trying to liberate them and it's his son who is pure evil and trying to take control.

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