Tag Archive - Four Corner Pillars of Novel Construction

A Look at Inner and Outer Conflict in Your Novel

We’re knee-deep in conflict (in our look at the four crucial corner pillars of novel construction). Let’s take some time to talk about the two faces of conflict: inner and outer. Maybe I don’t need to go over outer conflict because it’s obvious, right? Anything outside your character that hinders him or opposes him is external conflict. And usually this is easier to construct that internal conflict. But there are some things to keep in mind about external conflict.

I mentioned in an earlier post that you should have a central element of conflict in your story, but let me explain this a little further. Continue Reading…

Introducing Conflict into Your Story

The last few weeks we’ve been looking at the third corner pillar of novel construction: conflict with high stakes. Conflict is crucial in a novel, and it doesn’t have to come from just one main source or one clearly defined antagonist. We explored the topic of stakes, and looked at how high stakes are measured by the value the protagonist puts on the thing at stake (and this applies to all other characters in your book as well). In essence, the stakes are high if what is being risked is highly valued. These are personal stakes.

 Although I haven’t yet gotten into “public” stakes (what is at risk for others in your novel or “the world at large”), just keep in mind that any and all stakes have to concern your hero. If there are going to be large consequences to his choices—ones that affect others on a small interpersonal level, community level, or even global level—he has to care about those repercussions—because the book is essentially about him, his choices, and his goal. Depending on the genre, stakes and their consequences will vary. But a great novel will have conflict and high stakes at its core. Continue Reading…

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…

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