One of the cornerstones of writing any type of fiction is the need for conflict. At the start of every project, writers ask themselves at least two very basic questions:
What does our hero/heroine want most?
What is standing in their way?
Obviously, we delve deeper into the opposing forces as we move forward with a book, but those are the bare-bones basics. Internal and external forces are equally important, but require a different approach. This is where I stumble over one piece of oft-repeated writing advice.
We’re often told to imagine that ultimate goal, and then throw obstacle after obstacle into the path our protagonist has to take to get there.
Warning: Unpopular Opinion Ahead
I think there are times when an author can insert too much conflict into a story. As a matter of fact, I just read a book where it was literally one thing after another, page after page. No downtime. No breather. For me or the heroine. Nothing but one supposedly funny/sad/mortifying moment stepping on the heels of the one in front of it.
After the first few hits, I stopped buying in.
I know it’s fiction, but no one’s life is that non-stop. I mean, at some point, someone has to have a bio break, right? I’m telling you I would have locked myself in a filthy gas station bathroom and never come out if I were that poor heroine.
Warning: Unpopular Opinion #2 Coming At You
The other night, Jewels was talking about the big grovel scene in books… You know the kind, the one where one character does something so unthinkable that the only way they can possibly be forgiven is if they are willing to completely prostrate themselves at the other’s feet.
Yeah, I’m not a fan.
It’s not that I don’t want or appreciate a decent grovel as much as the next girl, it’s just that I don’t think they happen all that often in real life. Therefore, the whole set-up-overblown conflict/grand gesture/grovel comes off a bit too Hollywood for me.
I’m not saying a little groveling can’t take place. But, in my experience, there’s more awkward silence after a big blow-up than grandiloquent speechifying. I’d even go so far as to say that once we get past the oh-so-dramatic adolescent stage, most conflict is resolved with less than a paragraph’s worth of words.
And forgiveness doesn’t usually come with the big prize, but rather a small gesture.
Internal conflict usually plays a big part in my novels. Sure, I add a dash of external to turn up the heat a bit, but to me the story comes from the inside out, not the outside in.
Authors are frequently told to torment their characters, but I don’t. I figure they’re better at tormenting themselves than I will ever be. I just try to capture it all and put it on the page.
How about you? Are you a fan of the grovel? Has anyone ever hit you with a grand gesture. Tell your tale, and I might be inclined to give away a signed copy of Love & Rockets in celebration of this week’s exoplanet discovery!
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