Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Conflict = Tension = Emotion - Part I

So many articles offer tips on creating conflict and talk about the kinds of conflict and why they’re important. The reason is simple. A novel is not a story when it lacks conflict because conflict breeds tension and tension is offers emotion in your novel which is a vital ingredient to a story that grabs the reader and lingers in his mind.

What is conflict?
Too often writers present disagreements and arguments as conflict. Although in a broad sense, disagreements and arguments are a form of struggle, they do not arouse a reader enough to glue her to the book. You and I have conflicts daily. They’re commonplace and boring. Obviously then those two types of conflict are not what a plot needs. I’ve talked about this before, but I hope this new article will provide some different takes on the issue.

Conflict is when a need or goal are opposed by another character, a serious situation or an internal struggle that holds the character back from reaching a goal.

Two people who want land to use for their important purpose creates an opposition. Two people vying for one job that will make all hte difference in each one's life is conflict. A family illness that ties a character to the same town or the same job when an  offer draws him away, yet he cannot fail his dying mother or his love interest. Those scenarios are conflict. A woman, needing money to resolve a serious problem that endangers her well-being, is tempted to steal money from her employer, and though she has a plan and the capability, something in her values or experience, causes her to struggle with the means to resolve her need. These are all examples of the external, internal and even inherent conflict that can result in strong tension and create grabbing emotion.

Kinds of conflict
I’ve just named the basic kinds of conflict: inherent, external, and internal.

1. Inherent Conflicts in Plot
Setting is something in the novel from the beginning that causes problems: such as, the setting, distance in relationships, bad memories, or a dangerous environment.

2. External Conflict
This is the outside world pressing in, two or more whose needs or goals are in competition, or a person with two goals that oppose each other.

3. Internal Conflict
These are conflicts rising from a character’s fears, weaknesses, doubts, or failures. These conflicts also some from spiritual struggles or a character wanting to protect him or herself from another bad experience.

4. Extra Personal
Robert McKee identifies a fourth conflict as extra personal. These are often visual conflicts that are delivered in the form of action or farce. If you recall, the old I Love Lucy show with her classic chocolate factory plot, you will see how this create tension and emotion for the character as well as the viewer. The young camper lost in the woods finds an abandoned cabin—she thinks. Fear and foreshadowing danger arouses tension and thus emotion.

Part II will cover the Nature of Conflict


Martha Ramirez said...

GReat post, Gail!

CatMom said...

Thank you for this post and ALL the wonderful blog posts you faithfully write, Gail. I don't actually comment often, but please know I DO appreciate your sharing your wisdom and experience with those of us still learning in our writing journeys.
Blessings from Georgia,
Patti Jo :)

Jillian said...

Thank you again for another wonderful post, Gail. You have a way of making things so much more clear to me. I'm building a notebook of your posts for future reference. Thanks! Have a wonderful Memorial Weekend!

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks, Martha, CatMom and Jillian. It's always nice to know how many benefit from the blogs that I write. I was a teacher for years so it's natural for me to want to teach, and I've been so blessed with so many contracted novels and so many books that have sold up to over 3 million now. God is good. And Jillian, have a great Memorial Day too.

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