Thursday, September 16, 2010

Conflict In Fiction

It cannot be said often enough that plot is a verb. If a novel is to convey a story worth telling, it must move forward in a conflicted manner until it reaches a logical and satisfying conclusion. It is sometimes astonishing how little ‘action’ there is in literary fiction, even though the author might keep a firm grip on our throat all the way to a gut-wrenching conclusion. The most effective conflict in a story is what happens emotionally to the protagonist or to those he cares about. It doesn’t have to involve slashing, shooting, or hanging.

Conflict takes many forms depending on what type of story you are writing. In romance or young adult fiction, the conflict is often more subtitle, involving the relationship between the two main characters. In a suspense or thriller novel, the conflict will be more violent in nature, but it is most effective when the life-changing impact of the violence carries the story along. The most important factor in plotting your story is considering what your readership expects in that particular genre.

In a novel I read recently, the murder did not take center stage, nor were the details presented in graphic detail. The most moving scene involved the victim’s family at the funeral home trying to comfort each other, while seeking ways to pick up their lives and move on. The detail that made the scent so gripping was the suspicion that the husband’s carefully controlled emotions might boil over at some later date.

Regardless of the type of story you are writing, make me feel your pain rather than just presenting violence and mayhem in the manner of a crime scene report. Do it in the right way and I will come back to read what you have written again and again.

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