Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Place of Conflict in Fiction

Every Story Needs a Problem by Debbie Roome
A story without conflict is probably a narration of events more than a story that captivates readers and draws them in. This applies to short stories as well as full length novels.

What Kind of Conflict should I Introduce
Conflict in short stories is normally not as serious as that found in a novel. This is because the writer has far fewer words to resolve it in. Typical conflicts include things like couples who hate the sight of each other or someone dealing with a change in circumstances. In a novel, conflict may appear as an addiction or a disintegrating marriage.

When should the Conflict Begin
The conflict should begin as soon as possible. Introducing the problem in the first few lines or pages, should be done in such as way as to capture the reader’s interest and keep them reading on. Here are the first few lines of a story I wrote that took first place in a competition. I wrote them to try and provoke curiosity and questions in readers:
Violet sat on the kitchen table, two kilograms of ash cocooned in polished rimu. She’d been there for five weeks now. Alone. Secluded. Guarded by his watchful eye. It was a temporary measure for soon Katy would insist on taking her. Insist on burying her in the family grave.

When should the Conflict be Resolved
The problem should persist throughout the story. This is fairly easy in a short story but more difficult in a novel. Conflict in a novel should be more complex and the solution must be elusive. Closure should only come in the last chapter of a book or last few lines of a short story.

Before writing any story, ask yourself what problem the main character is facing. This will be the underlying current that adds interest and keeps the reader turning the pages. Always remember that a story must have conflict to make it interesting.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101, Associated Content and Faithwriters.

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