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Anonymous Traveler
01-17-2007, 02:31 AM
Could someone explain conflict. Some posts seem to demand that there be an ongoing duel between characters throughout a novel. I have enough conflict in one novel but occasionally Mr & Mrs MC have fun. I don't need the novels to be a running dust up. How much is enough or too much?

You'll laugh,
you'll cry,
you'll buy six copies,
by and by.

OK Tennyson I'm not. Lord knows.

greglondon
01-17-2007, 02:34 AM
Alice wants some McGuffin.

Bob wants the McGuffin for himself.

Conflict ensues.

The story ends when either Alice or Bob have established possession of the mcguffin.

Sassenach
01-17-2007, 02:49 AM
Don't confuse conflict with disagreements or antagonism [though it can be those.] "Two dogs, one bone" is a famous definition.

Judg
01-17-2007, 02:51 AM
Conflict can be low-level too. Your main conflict probably shouldn't be, but all kinds of mini-conflict can occur on the sidelines. Your MC wants to have a quiet breakfast and a little time to himself as an antidote to all the frantic stuff he's been going through. But three year old daughter is up and active and wants to show him kitties. He doesn't want to hurt his little cutie, but he desperately wants to be left alone. There you have the potential of internal conflict as well as conflict with someone else.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, as I've been seeing that the first part of my WIP is probably woefully short on this. I've got to figure out how to work a little more in.

PeeDee
01-17-2007, 03:15 AM
As has been pointed out, conflict doesn't have to be Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader throughout your WHOLE novel. Nor does it have to be page after page of angst.

It means that your character is trying to do something/have something/get somewhere. It means that things impede him (of course they do). There's your conflict. It doesn't meany ou can't have fun it doesn't mean you can't wander off for a bit and do an interesting side bit.

mysterygrl
01-17-2007, 03:37 AM
Conflict can also be internal: a character struggling with demons, fears, temptation, etc.

There's nothing wrong with a scene that contains less tension, as long as it propels the plot forward. What you don't want is characters sitting around drinking coffee, chatting about the beautiful whether. (Unless there's a serial killer lurking outside the window.) These lower-level scenes can also serve to highlight your high-conflict scenes. If it's one explosion after another, than can be boring, too. (I learned this from writing teacher Jessica Morrel.)

Anonymous Traveler
01-17-2007, 04:14 AM
Ah Haaa

The chapter that caused the grief was the fun result of earlier conflict. They resolved, learned and then showed ever one how they ended up. Then went on to find another issue.

OK, conflict break, 10 pages, smoke if you have em... Leave your bashers in a neat row.

Thanks all, now to find some other glaring errors to be thrashed over.

TrainofThought
01-17-2007, 04:53 AM
I think of conflict as obstacles in my book. The plot allows the reader to get to know the characters and surprised by the difficulties that come up. Conflict keeps a readerís interest without a tedious progression from page to page, plot driven.

Some books tell a story with little conflict, but those are character driven. I agree with Sassenach, disagreements arenít necessarily conflicts depending on how often and their placement. My two cents.

maestrowork
01-17-2007, 05:06 AM
Every time you have two characters wanting something different (or trying to get the same thing for themselves), you have conflicts. Then there are mega-conflicts: the man vs. nature. But mostly, conflicts fall in the man vs. man and man vs. self categories. So as long as you have people wanting different things and trying to get them despite others, you have conflicts.

Conflicts create drama. It's not to say you have to have conflicts all the way through -- for example, in romance, you may have a few scenes where the two protagonists are in perfect harmony... but don't let that linger for two long, because you will lose the dramatic momentum. Even a "he wants to stay home and she wants to go out" would be conflict. It's a matter of how you make the plot work.

PeeDee
01-17-2007, 05:10 AM
There aren't too many bits in LIFE where everyone's in harmony. Heck, my wife and I aren't always in harmony, and we get along. Harmony is for music, I'm afraid, not life or writing... :)

greglondon
01-17-2007, 06:50 AM
Another basic conflict scenario:

Alice wants McGuffin1.

Alice wants McGuffin2.

McGuffin1 and McGuffin2 are mutually exclusive.

Say she's an alcoholic (alcohol is McGuffin1).
And say her husband, Bob, said he's divorcing her if she doesn't clean up. (Marriage/Bob is McGuffin2).

The ensuing conflict is internal to Alice. There may be stuff going on between Alice and Bob, but the meat of the conflict goes down to Alice having two mutually exclusive wants. Part of her wants to drink (is addicted to it, whatever). Part of her wants to stay married to her husband.

But she can't have both and must chose one or the other.

JanDarby
01-17-2007, 08:18 AM
Story = characters in conflict.

If you're taking a break from conflict, you're taking a break from the story. Don't do it.

You can have a scene that's less tense than others, that's fun and funny even, but there still needs to be conflict between the protagonist and antagonist in the scene.

Personally, I avoid asking "does this scene have conflict?" It's too vague a concept, and we tend to think of angst, rather than conflict. For me, at least, it works better to ask: what does the protagonist want in this scene and who's stopping him/her from getting it? (Which harks back to the definitions given above for conflict, namely a person who wants something and is blocked from getting it, although I would suggest that at least most of the time, the blocker should be another person, not the self or a thing.) If you can answer both parts of that question, you've got conflict. If you can't, there's no conflict and, except in extremely rare circumstances, the scene will be flat, the pacing will be dead, and readers will be yawning or -- worse -- putting down the book.

JD

ruecole
01-17-2007, 08:34 AM
What you don't want is characters sitting around drinking coffee, chatting about the beautiful whether. (Unless there's a serial killer lurking outside the window.)

Or they're chatting about the weather because they're avoiding talking about some bigger issue. ;)

In one of his writing books (can't recall which one right now), Sol Stein said to give each of your characters a different script. By doing so, they'll always be in conflict.

But yes, as others have said, your characters should always be in conflict. Not necessarily high tension conflict, but conflict nonetheless. Something should always be getting in their way of their goals. Be it a traffic light, a sick cat, a well-meaning friend, or an evil genius.

JMVHO

Rue

Birol
01-17-2007, 08:54 AM
Some posts seem to demand that there be an ongoing duel between characters throughout a novel. I have enough conflict in one novel but occasionally Mr & Mrs MC have fun. I don't need the novels to be a running dust up. How much is enough or too much?

I have four MC's. They're in the middle of struggle for independence on multiple levels. However, they are also siblings and sometimes, they act just like siblings do, poking and ribbing each other good naturedly. Conflict and humor don't have to be mutually exclusive.

PeeDee
01-17-2007, 09:50 AM
I have four MC's. They're in the middle of struggle for independence on multiple levels. However, they are also siblings and sometimes, they act just like siblings do, poking and ribbing each other good naturedly. Conflict and humor don't have to be mutually exclusive.

In fact, they're anything but. Plenty of people respond to a crisis by...laughing. It might be the adrenaline of being in a battle, or it might be because it's laugh or cry, and you're damned if you're going to cry. Some people just deal with problems by pretending they aren't there, and they're laughing too.

Even when things are bad, life isn't Grim Grim Grim every minute of the day. Sometimes we really wish it were, because it's easier just to settle into the fug, but it doesn't work that way. Not generally.