Tag Archive - conflict

Creating Believable High Stakes for Your Characters

Before I jump into the topic of inner and outer conflict, I’m going to share with you today what I feel is the biggest pitfall writers fall into when it comes to setting high stakes. It’s something I’ve seen in countless novels I critique. And it’s a bad thing—because it threatens believability. If you want your readers to believe in your characters, they have to behave believably. Right?

Here’s an example of what I often come across. A character in a fantasy novel goes through some magical portal into another world, where he learns he is the deliverer foretold to save this hidden kingdom. He’s your average guy and knows nothing about this world. Without hesitation, he not only accepts the truth of this prophecy/claim/appointment (fill in the blank), he immediately is willing to risk everything—life, limb, future, his firstborn, you name it—to assume the mantle of authority and responsibility. Continue Reading…

The Secret to Crafting High Stakes

We’re looking at conflict in our fiction, and last week I touched a bit on this essential “corner pillar” of novel construction. Conflict is crucial to having a compelling story, for if our hero has no obstacles as he tries to reach his goal, the story will be bor-ing. What would The Wizard of Oz be like if, once Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz, she had only to take a walk in the park without incident to arrive back in Kansas? Well, there wouldn’t be a story, and story is everything.

So I’ll assume we’re in agreement that we need conflict in our novels. I talked last week about some different types of classic scenarios that pit man against other forces (opposition), and how conflict doesn’t necessarily imply a bad guy or antagonist blocking your hero’s way. But what conflict should do is present high stakes for him. Continue Reading…

Creating Conflict with a Purpose

Conflict. No one likes conflict. Except, of course, readers of fiction. And, one hopes, writers of said fiction. Why do I say “one hopes”? Because I’m surprised by how many manuscripts I edit and critique that have very little to no conflict in the story. And conflict is crucial.

I might even be so bold as to say that if you don’t have a strong element of conflict inherent in your story, you don’t have a story worth reading (or writing). And this is why conflict is one of the four essential corner pillars in constructing a novel. Continue Reading…

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