Monday, September 29, 2008

Conflict: Part IV: Conflict Techniques

Conflicts are more than disagreements, as I said earlier. Conflicts are elaborate pieces of the character’s life struggles and crises. You have them in your own life. To recreate the energy needed to bring conflicts to life, you will need to use special techniques to allow these struggles to be the the power they must be for an exciting story.

Conflicts must rouse a readers emotions and cause them to think. Conflicts are like puzzles, each piece is a conflict that needs to be put into place before the reader can satisfactorily see the whole picture. As each conflict is resolved, it’s adding another piece to the puzzle, but another jigsaw crisis faces the character, and now he must put that piece into place before he wins the battle and completes the puzzle. Each piece becomes more complex and harder to fit into the right space.

Conflict techniques to remember are:
• The fight is worth the prize
• Opponents change and grow equally in power to the hero
• Rising tension and action continue to the end.
• Details on conflict trap the character and push him into the corner

Conflict doesn’t work if it has little value. The problem must be important enough for the character to arouse his perseverance to make a difference in his life and to rid himself of the problem. Even in the beginning, smaller conflicts must have a lose-win factor. If he doesn’t get there in time, he will lose the opportunity. If he loses, then he must find a new way to obtain the opportunity again. This adds tension. Don’t make everything work out easily. Have him miss the train or drop the documents in a rain puddle that sweeps them into the sewer.

You need a strong opposition. A weak opponent means no conflict. Let the opponent win some of the battles. This allows your characters to grow and change. It challenges them to find another way to resolve the issue or to solve a leg of the problem. Opponents should be cunning. Think of Hannibal Lector or Rhett Butler. Even when the character’s own foible or flaw is his opponent, give the attribute clout. Allow it to control wisdom and to put fear in the heart of the character until he can win his personal battle.

Each conflict must worsen as the plot moves along. One conflict is resolved and another appears. Don’t resolve a problem and then wait too long to add another. Let a new one be foreshadowed before the present one is resolved.

Put your character in a corner with no place to go. Trap them by deception or difficult choices. Set them on the edge of a mountain with no way to escape but to jump. Think of Indiana Jones. He feared snakes, and snakes are often unexpected opponents in the Indiana Jones movies. Make your characters wade through their fears. Give them phobias and force them to face them. This creates excitement and grabs readers and holds on.

Look at your latest novel or work in progress and see if you are using these techniques to create conflicts.

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