Friday, January 9, 2015

Who Needs Conflict Anyway?

Who Needs More Conflict?

Today while teaching my students about writing, we discussed how conflict makes a story more interesting.


Because that’s life. Life is full of plot twists, struggles, obstacles, triumphs, and failures.


The Story Mirrors Life

An element of plot that every quality story needs to grab the reader and hold them in is strong conflict.

What is meant by “strong” conflict?

Think about life. What does strong conflict look like?

People don’t want to read stories about happy perfect people with equally perfect lives. That’s boring. That’s unrealistic. And it’s not true to life.

I asked my students to imagine no conflict in their favorite stories. No conflict means no adventure, no risk, no...story!

In writing, good writers try to mirror life even if the story is set in fantasy. The conflict should mirror life.


Because people want to read about a character who has struggles in life. That’s what makes the reader connect to the story. Readers have struggles of their own…and they want to read about someone who has overcome those struggles.


So when you write about conflict, make it STRONG conflict. Make it urgent. For example…

I love World War II history. A few years ago, my family was fortunate to visit the National Marine Corps Museum at Quantico. Inside this amazingly detailed museum, we enjoyed the section about Iwo Jima. As we were leaving that section, we ran into an actual veteran of Iwo Jima.

There he was along with his wife. The two had married before the war when they were still teenagers and there they were, still standing side-by-side, real life survivors. The fact that anyone could survive Iwo Jima is almost a miracle, but to be able to meet a veteran of Iwo and ask him questions about his experience was an absolute thrill. 

This man lived through STRONG urgent conflict. He overcame extreme obstacles. That’s a man people want to meet.

  • Holocaust survivors
  • War survivors
  • Disease survivors
  • September 11th survivors
  • Plane crash survivors
  • Survivors!

That sense of urgency is what escalates a story to that next level.

Urgency should be in your story as well. Readers want to root for your character as she confronts each obstacle. They want to see how this ordinary flawed character deals with such conflict. Will she survive? Will she save the day? Will she solve the crime? Stop the killer? Escape the danger?

Or will she fail?

These are questions people ask themselves every day. That’s the sort of conflict that a reader wants to see in your story.

Don’t disappoint them.
Life is disappointing enough. Make your story the light at the end of that tunnel. Give your readers the hope they need.

Make your story count.

That’s what readers want!

Your turn: How do you add conflict to your stories? Do you try to mirror life in your stories?