This week’s video talks about a type of conflict that works within the story, but which often causes more annoyance to readers than it’s worth.
If you’ve been following the series “Structuring Your Story’s Scenes” on my blog, then you probably know we’ve been talking about conflict quite a bit. But there is one aspect of conflict that I haven’t covered—and that is, in my opinion, the most annoying type of conflict an author can inflict upon his readers. This is what I like to call false conflict, and it kind of goes hand in hand with false suspense. Both, in essence, are attempts by the author to unnaturally manipulate the story—and, as a result, the technique is basically tricking the reader.
In false suspense, we’re telling readers something exciting or dangerous is happening when it really isn’t. In false conflict, we’re dredging up sparks between two or more characters over issues these characters wouldn’t naturally fight over. I’m going to say this is most common in romantic comedies. The author has to keep the two leads at odds throughout the story, because the moment the guy gets the girl, the story ends.
So even though these people are madly in love, the author throws in false conflicts, such as small misunderstandings that blow up into big arguments, petty squabbles, etc. This sort conflict works within the mechanics of the story. It keeps the characters from achieving their goals too quickly, and it creates the opportunity for interesting situations and dialogue. But when the conflict doesn’t make sense according to the personalities of the characters and the needs of the plot, it’s going to become frustrating to readers—particularly when it’s a little conflict that’s blown up into a big conflict for no good reason. So keep an eye on your story’s conflict, just to make certain your characters are always acting honestly.