Helllloooooo, dear readers! We're back. Well, I (Erynn) am. Hope you had a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year. Between the two of us, we traveled 1,500 miles, battled morning sickness, laryngitis, and double pneumonia, probably ate two dozen cookies (if by two you realize I mean six), and packed and unpacked an entire house.
But we're back. And we're going to put our Decisions, Decisions series on hold until we're both back up and around and more unpacked.
So, today I'm going to drop a couple pointers on conflict. The first is simple.
HAVE IT. Every story needs conflict. In fact, every scene needs it. Even in picture books, the bunny wants the carrot in the angry farmer's field, or the child's doll has a broken arm. In every story, someone has to want something they can't have (or at least they think they can't). Give your characters obstacles. Be it an antagonist, their own personal/emotional issues, or nature itself. Heck, why not all three? Nothing is more boring than a conflict-less story. No one wants to read a book about a bunch of happy people that never argue and who never have anything bad happen to them. Snooooore.
The second pointer is . . . MAKE IT WORSE. This is especially true for suspense writers, but a good tip for all writers. Make sure the problems you throw at your characters aren't all just silly and superficial. You see this sometimes in romance novels where you're thinking, "Oh come on! Just have a conversation, and this would all be over!" The romantic dithering.
At several points along the way, especially near the climax of your story, you should ask yourself, what's the worst thing that could happen to my character right now? Then make that happen. Then . . . do it again. Keep making it worse until it feels like there's no way out. Then find a way out.
Ronie Kendig is the queen of this. Her books are all, "Oh no, I'm surrounded by venomous snakes in a cave that's running out of oxygen. And I'm severely claustrophobic. Wait! I hear someone coming. I'm saved! No! It's the Taliban. I have to find a way to escape them. Maybe if I . . . AVALANCHE!!!" She never gives the reader a chance to breathe before the next crisis. And that's what you want.
When you lose conflict, you give the reader a chance to put your book down and walk away. Your goal should be to keep 'em up all night. And how do you do that . . . ?
Now go forth and make it worse!