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Lack of Conflict

I don’t like conflict.Clashing hands of fire and water

At all.

And I recently realized it shows in my writing. But not in a good way.

I have been going through the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year and noticed a couple of the characters getting along way too well in parts of the story where one of them should have been super pissed off at the other. It nagged at the back of my head a little bit when I was writing it, but I didn’t fully see it until reading through the whole story again. (This is why we edit, right?)

This also struck me as a bit funny because one of my favorite writing moments from last year involved the first big argument between these same characters. I was happily typing along letting the story unfold as my fingers hit the keys when I thought, “These people have been getting along really well. Almost too well.” And within a few sentences one of the characters started a rant with “Oh, f**k off!” I paused for a second and thought, “Okay. I guess they are going to fight now.” I think I actually giggled because it was such a cool feeling to have the story just flowing onto the screen like that. Then I quickly went back into the rant and finished the scene. 

I guess after that I was paying more attention to unfolding the story and not so much how the characters were interacting. So when I got to the part where the characters should have been more at odds, they were quick to be okay with each other in the interest of moving the story along. I’m cutting myself some slack here because this was my first stab at a project this large and it was during a 23 day sprint to write 50,000+ words. I knew there would be flaws in the characters, story, and writing.

Now that I have taken a first pass through the story, I’m making the initial round of revisions. Seeing where there should have been more conflict later in the story has helped me notice where it should start building closer to the beginning. As a result, the characters are coming to life a bit more and it is so fun to watch.

Going back through the story has helped me see how flat the characters seem when everyone is happy and gets along swimmingly. It feels fake. I would love for everyone to get along and be happy, but I know that, sadly, it is just not going to happen. So the next time I sit down to write a novel (which will be Nov. 1) I will pay better attention to how the characters are interacting and if they are getting along too well. I will also realize they are not real people and I don’t have to feel bad that they are not getting along. (Yes, I’m one of those people who sits and cries at books as if I’m reading about my own family and friends.)

Do you find it difficult to write conflict? How do you handle conflicts in your stories?

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