There is a scene in my book, The Dragon Forest, where ten year old Peter realizes his foolish actions (running away) have caused his father, the King, to come look for him even though this puts the kingdom in danger. Peter sees the consequences of his actions and he is conflicted. How could he do this to his father? Make his father choose between saving him…and saving the kingdom.
Adding conflict to your story is what draws in your readers. If everyone in the story gets along, if there are no difficult decision to be made, if your character has nothing to fear…then you have yourself a boring story.
So, how do you add conflict? Well, imagine your protagonist is a popular, beautiful, fifteen year old sophomore in high school. She gets straight A’s, is on the cheerleading squad, life is good.
But one day she comes home and sees her father leaving with suitcases in hand and her mother is crying. She is told her father won’t be coming back. Now, there is conflict. The girl’s life won’t ever be the same. The rest of the story will show the reader just how drastically her life will change….
This “struggle” can come outwardly or inwardly. Say the young girl has to choose between her mother and her father. Inwardly, she has always had a better relationship with her dad, but outwardly she feels she should stay with her mom. CONFLICT.
By adding conflict, you can also add abrasive, interesting, and striking dialogue that can make a scene more real for the reader. Take some time to listen to conversations around you. Pay attention to inflection, emotion, and even word choice while you listen in. Jot down some notes, too.
Writing a story shouldn't be easy. It should always make the writer uncomfortable at times because of the amount of thought that goes into each scene. I know for me, writing conflict sometimes causes me to remember things in my past which can be an unpleasant experience, but it's worth it. Those instances of conflict add realism to the story and can draw the reader in.
And isn't that the point of it all?
Your turn: How do you add conflict to your stories? Do you draw from personal experiences or is that too difficult for you?