Linore will be with us on a regular basis here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, as she, too, offers her excellent writing tips for all of us who write and read.
(Writing Tip #3)
by Linore Rose Burkard
Everyone knows that a good novel has to have good conflict, right? But should it be internal conflict or external? Or should it be both? And, is there such a thing as good conflict?
Have no fear--my post today will give you all the "conflicting" advice you could want.
In all seriousness, yes, every good novel (or movie, or play) needs to have some juicy conflicts going. In a literary sense, all conflict is good, and the more layers of it you can keep juggling throughout your story, the better and more compelling the book will be.
But should it be external or internal, you ask? I try to use both in every book.
Heating Things Up ...
Internal conflict can be excruciating and is strong enough to carry a well-told story; however, it never hurts to add to the internal drama by heating things up outside your protagonist, too. In other words, layer on the external problems that amount to more conflict for your character(s).
Every conflict raises a question or two that your reader desperately wants answered. Such as:
- How will this problem be solved?
- What will happen to end this conflict?
- Which will keep them reading
My published books are historicals, but I have written contemporaries, too, and embedding conflict is really part of plotting--no matter what genre you write in.If your novel is more action-driven, you are likely to use
more external conflict; if you write character-driven stories (as I do) you will have a great deal of internal conflict mixed with the external. When you can use both, you will have a powerful set-up that the reader will find compelling.
Just in case you're about to gnash your teeth because you still don't know the difference between internal and external conflict, I'll address that now. (I aim to please!)
Those Inner Churnings
Internal conflict is exactly what it sounds like: The inner churnings and workings of a mind that is torn; it is when a hero is attracted to a woman he thinks is all wrong for him; or when a heroine knows she ought to report the advances of a boss but fears retribution.
In my book, The Country House Courtship, the heroine is conflicted because she wants to marry a wealthy gentleman, but the man she is falling in love with is poor; he is of a much better character than the one who is rich, and she knows she ought to follow her heart, but her head is stubbornly holding out for the guy with the big fortune.
And this is what inner conflict is all about:
- the head vs. the heart.
- Reason vs. emotion.
- Head-knowledge vs. heart-knowledge.
What Happens on the Outside ...
External conflict is anything that happens outside of the character's head; for example, it could be anything from an earthquake to a chance meeting with an old enemy. It could be expectations from other people; deadlines; anything that happens TO or AROUND your character and causes trouble of some kind. In some novels, it's appropriate to have God be a source of conflict; If your character wants to do what's right but gives in to temptation, for example.
So there you have it.
Every good book must have good conflict, whether it be
- the character vs. him or herself;
- the character vs. the world (or some aspect of it);
- the character vs. God.
Bring on the Layers!
How many layers of conflict can you include in your story? When it comes to fiction, bring it on! Keep a running tally sheet of how often you address each issue so that you don't inadvertently drop any of the balls you've thrown into the air, and finish smoothly by solving each and every problem!
You'll have a satisfied reader who can't wait to read your next book.
© 2010 Linore Rose Burkard The House in Grosvenor Square
Before the Seasons Ends
The Country House Courtship
(artwork borrowed from Photobucket)