Conflict in writing
By Janice Seagraves
Most writers know that to have an interesting story which draws the reader in, you must have conflict.
Conflict = story.
One way to have conflict is to make your main character an underdog.
Why an underdog?
Because people love to root for an underdog.
Example: Remember Charlie Brown, trying every year to kick that football? Didn’t you root for him, even though you knew Lucy would pull that ball away each and every time, he tried to kick it?
Let’s face it, no one wants to root for Ken and Barbie who live an idyllic life in suburbia.
In my book Windswept Shores, I have my heroine, Megan have a really bad day:
Windswept Shores Excerpt:
If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she’d go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. “God, this thing is heavy.” With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.
Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.
Another way to have conflict in a romance is to have newly divorced Ken, (Barbie ran off with G.I. Joe), have a miserable day—conflict.
Example: Say Ken’s Porsche breaks down on the way to work and he has to have it towed. As he waits impatiently for the tow truck driver, he’s mentally marking off all the things that went wrong that week (conflict). Just after he’s comes to the fact that he is alone and unloved the tow truck driver arrives. But a pretty woman steps out. It’s P.J. The baggy coveralls can’t hide her full (Mattel) figure and the grease smudges on her (plastic) face can’t cover up her lovely face or her Malibu tan. Maybe P.J.’s father or uncle owns the business, or maybe she owns it herself. Or maybe she’s not a tow truck driver, but a pick-up service for a car rental agency.
So Ken thanks his lucky star that he’s spotted this beauty, but when he asks P.J. out she turns him down—flat.
No conflict—no story.
In my book Windswept Shores, I have Megan alone on a deserted island, until Seth washes up on shore. The first thing he does is sniff her hair.
Windswept Shores excerpt:
“Are you from England?”
“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sidney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”
Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”
“G’day, Megz,” he answered, struggling to sit-up. “Sorry, I’m not from your plane.”
Megan slipped an arm around him lifting his back off the sand. Turning his head to her hair, he took in a couple of short breaths. Megan pulled back staring at him. “What the—did you just sniff me?”
“Ya smell too good not to.” He grinned, causing his cheeks to dimple. “Name’s Seth Dawson.”
Whatever your conflict is, you’ve got to either keep it going or bring in some new conflict. New conflict is great, especially if you overlay it with the old conflict.
Example: Charlie Brown gets depressed about not kicking the football and visit Lucy at her psychiatrist’s help booth to tell her all his troubles. Then she basically calls him a loser.
Why? For additional conflict.
Lucy is the antagonist; her job is to cause conflict.
Back to Ken. He’s finally got P.J. to go on a date with him. Everything is great in Ken’s life right? But what if her business partner doesn’t like Ken and tells him so right to his face?
Why? For additional conflict. That partner is the antagonist for Ken’s story. He’ll keep poor Ken on his toes for the rest of the story.
In Windswept Shores, I have the wild pigs that inhabit their island for additional conflict. They are the antagonist and keep my characters down or at least running for their lives. I have them in place way before things getting hot and heavy between my couple.
Windswept Shores excerpt:
“You can’t charge boars barehanded. They have long, sharp tusks.” She frowned. “The last time I ran across a wild pig, I had to climb a tree.”
He slammed his fist on the boat’s railing. “I should have taken the offal out last night and buried them.” Opening a chest, Seth took out a spear gun. “You know how to use one of these?”
“No, I’ve only seen them on TV.” She set the eggs on the swivel chair.
“It’s just like on the box. You point and pull the trigger.” Seth demonstrated, loading it with a long spear with a wicked looking barb.
“What are you going to do?” She took the spear-gun.
Seth pushed the sharp end away from him. “I’m gonna make a bullroarer.” He brought out some heavy duty fishing line, tying a pointed weight to the end of it. “If I get charged, shoot. But try not to hit me.”
“I’ll try,” she said softly.
“Try a little harder than that, luv.” He grinned as he climbed down the ladder.