I saw this post on the Daily Writing Tips blog. In fact, I've just joined her RSS feed. She has another part of the blog with Word of the Day stuff, which is right up my alley, too. :-)

Back to the Post

Anyway, the post talked about a specific Sol Stein book, one I hadn't seen or read, How to Grow a Novel. (Sounds intriguing, huh?) Mr. Stein has this to say about conflict in your novel (that is, is it necessary):
Yes, conflict was and is a necessity, it is the essence of dramatic action. The engine of fiction is somebody wanting something and going out to get it. And if you let him get it right away, you’re killing the story…Without…opposition, fiction is a vehicle without an engine.

I know a lot of you are probably saying: Duh. ;-) But really, how many times have you written a scene in your first draft (hopefully it's just in your first draft and not the final one! :-)) that is just dull/dried out/blah? Or have you seen the same when critting a portion of someone's novel?

Too many times. Writing something like that in the first draft is fine; the idea is write it down fast, eschewing whether it makes sense or not, then revise/cut.

The idea to keep in mind is that you want readers to keep reading...to turn the page, and keep turning the pages until they've finished your novel.

Remember to put up as many roadblocks between your main character getting whatever he or she wants, or the conflict will dry up too soon; if it does happen rather quickly, you might want to consider making your story into a short story instead. Or coming up with those roadblocks and hindrances, no matter how outlandish they might first seem. (Always give in to your creativity with that first draft; tell your inner critic to take a vacation for a while.)

But, yes, conflict is the essence of a novel. Without that, it's just so much dead wood (and that goes for e-books as well as dead-tree books! :-))

~Nancy Beck


Angie said...

Oh, yeah, definitely. [nod/facepalm] It's one of the most common baby-writer problems, not wanting to be "mean" to their beloved characters. Or just not understanding what a plot is, and thinking that "writing what happened" is a plot. No conflict => no plot => no story. It's depressing how many people don't get that, though.