Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to Escalate Conflict in Your Novel

by C.J. Redwine

We all know every story requires conflict. And most of us start writing our stories with a glorious, shining piece of conflict in mind. The problem is that most of our initial glorious, shining pieces of conflict are inadequate for sustaining the interest of a reader throughout the entire story. There’s a balance to writing good conflict. A way to pace it so that it steadily grows throughout the story, keeping your reader glued to the page. Here are some suggestions for ways you can escalate the conflict in your story.

1. Use all three types of conflict:
Your hero should have a difficult internal conflict, relational conflict with other characters, and an external conflict against his environment or circumstances. Developing all three strands of conflict gives your story depth and keeps your reader constantly invested in reading more.

4. Pacing:
The pacing of conflict in your story should look like this: Conflict Simmers » Conflict Boils » Conflict Explodes » Breathing Space » Repeat as necessary.

5. Pacing #2:
All of that simmering, boiling, and exploding should look like peaks in your manuscript while the breathing space looks like valleys. Your peaks should get progressively higher and higher as the story nears completion. If you have two or three peaks in a row that are all at the same level of risk/intensity/stakes, you aren’t at a peak. You’re at a plateau, and you need to reassess those conflicts and figure out how to escalate them.

6. Make it worse:
In every instance of conflict, ask yourself “How could this be worse?” If you can think of several ideas, it’s time to either find a way to use those ideas as you move through the manuscript, or make the original instance WORSE. Again, don’t pull your punches.

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