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Once Upon A Novel: The Conflict

I should probably write the Once Upon A Novel series with fangs, a heavy eastern European accent with a dark mediaeval long coat and top hat to boot. Maybe then I’d finally wriggle into your minds the enormity of writing your own novel because yall keep coming back for more! Don’t get me wrong, I love that I haven’t yet scared you away.  The magnificent views on my posts and positive feedback on different platforms are really inspiring.  It’s a warm feeling knowing that I am playing my part to inspire potential authors to start writing. Let’s get into today’s topic which is, conflict.

If you’re a regular, then you know what’s what. You started out with the basics; you chose a theme for your novel, brainstormed ideas and you generally have a semblance of the mega tale that’ll blow our socks off. You’re still thinking about breaking your story into chapters and sub-chapters, but you’ve already established the number of words you require for your book. Which also means you know which genre your book will be. Then, you took a stab at creating your characters; exploring opinionated personas and giving them a purpose, breathing life into them and making them relatable. You’ve done well. But you need to start stitching up the storyline, knitting the genre and weaving your characters into the story. You need strands of creativity and various tools for the perfect novel. One of the biggest yarn you can (and must) use is conflict.

The Conflict

Your story might have the perfect characters sketched in heaven and whose intrinsic personas reverberate with your readers. The narrative could be so captivating, like a waterfall with seamless flow weaved into majestic descriptions and sumptuous scenes. The pavements of your book could be laced with fine rubies, the roads with white pearls but if you want to reel in your reader, capture them and hug them like a long lost wealthy uncle, you gotta have a big fat conflict. And this conflict must beget or ancestorize other smaller but significant conflicts.

Think of any novel, all the movies or any narrative you’ve ever come across. No story exist without conflict. Even in the mechanical and manufactured reality shows, squabbles must exist. So what is conflict?

Conflict in literature is defined as any struggle between opposing forces. Usually, the main character struggles against some other force.

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Conflict can be a character versus himself (internal), a character versus another character or a character versus the society/nature/fate (external). How then do we create compelling and authentic conflict for our novel?

How to Create Conflict

  • Create strong opinionated characters – As suggested in my previous post, strong characters with strongly differing opinions are bound to disagree. Opinions are shaped by cultures, worldviews, religion, levels of education and class. Create such opinionated characters that conflict is inevitable and force these characters to need each other.
  • Moral ambiguity – Get your main character to face an impossible moral dilemma. Make her choose between the death of a beloved friend or the revelation of her family’s deep dark secret. You get brownie stickers for making your hero fail. You will thank me later.
  • Create love barriers – This one should be easy. Time, age, religion, culture, race and distance can all be used to create conflict as a barrier to love. For an extra tinge of pepper, combine two barriers.
  • Make success narrow – If everyone wins or receives the main accolade, then there is no conflict. Make it such that there is only one prize, one crown, one leadership position. Extra points for you if your protagonist is at a disadvantage at achieving success.
  • Create time conflict – If two important events happen at the same time but in different places that both require the hero, he/she has to choose one and disappoint another.
  • Add third parties –  Add other interested parties apart from your main characters who are either heavily invested in the outcome of the conflict or hold all the power but are nonchalant about how success is achieved.

Happy Writing!

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