This week’s video reveals the varied layers of conflict we can choose to include in our stories—and why we want as many of those layers as possible.
As we continue with our series about what I learned while writing my fantasy novel Dreamlander, I’d like to devote today’s video to the all-important subject of conflict. I love action stories, so most of my novels lean in that direction. And Dreamlander is no different. It features large-scale Renaissance-esque battles among other things. But the truth is big battles barely scratch the surface of the conflict necessary to make a book work.
Let’s consider the different levels of conflict.
1. First, we have world-ending conflict: evil aliens are about to bomb the living daylights out of humanity. That kind of thing.
2. Then we have large-scale human conflict, such as war.
And these big conflicts are all fine and good, because they create a framework of high stakes, as well as inherent settings of danger and tension. But these conflicts are never really what a story is about. Books that are about war—such as Mary Johnston’s wonderful Civil War story The Long Roll—become more about the event than the characters. And that’s fine if that’s what you’re wanting to do.
But most stories are going to find their power in something smaller and more intimate: and that is the conflict between characters. So we have several levels of this as well.
3. To begin with, we have the obvious conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. But why stop there? Why not pour on the conflict?
4. Between the protagonist and his family.
5.The protagonist and his allies.
6. The antagonist and his allies.
Conflict is what makes fiction run. More than that, it’s what makes fiction interesting. Keep the conflict pumping in every scene and don’t forget to vary its intensity (obviously you’re not going to want the conflict between the protagonist and her boyfriend to be at the same level as the aliens vs. the humans). Conflict is what will keep your action popping and your readers hooked.
Don’t forget to vote for which prize you’d like to win in the Dreamlander Launch Party Grand Prize Drawing on December 2!