Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Tip for Tuesday
On to the Tip for Tuesday. There is one inviolable rule of of fiction. Can you guess what it is?
It's not Show Don't Tell (though that's a good one.)
It's not One Point of View Per Scene (another excellent one.)
It's not No Backstory Dumps (because they are stinkin' boring and grind the story to a halt)
All of those rules can and have been broken by lots of authors throughout the ages. Some break them with better results than others, but I challenge you to check your bookshelves. I'll bet you can find at least one instance where each of these rules have been broken.
No, the cardinal, unbreakable rule for writing publishable fiction is this:
"No conflict, no story."
Seriously. If your character faces no conflict, you have no story at all.
Some beginning writers fall so deeply in love with their characters that they can't bear to put them through any difficulty. The writer pulls her punches and coddles her character.
I'm blessed to have a critique partner who has NO FEAR when it comes to throwing her characters into the meat-grinder. I sometimes have to read her manuscripts while wincing out of the corner of my eye. And she's taught me a lot about conflict and being unafraid.
In a workshop I attended with Tricia Goyer, she taught us that we need to drag our characters to the lowest low, so that the glorious grace of God and the overcoming of the obstacle shines even brighter. We can't be afraid to up the conflict, to put the outcome in jeopardy, to really hammer on our characters.
I realized how far I've come in this aspect as I was working on rewrites. I was writing a scene in which my hero hoped not to disgrace himself by doing something clumsy at dinner. The first flash across my mind was, "I wonder how he'll disgrace himself and what clumsy thing he will do."
This is a minor conflict that plays into the major one of the book, the one where the heroine has to break down the hero's prideful walls and convince him that though he's been crippled in an accident, she still loves him. On the side, he needs to find out why the mine he was in charge of collapsed, killing several and injuring himself.
The dinner scene could've been just that, a meal, blah, blah, blah. By ramping up the conflict, by causing to happen the one thing the hero didn't want, it makes the story interesting and leads into the next scene. How will he react? How will she counteract those actions? Will this set back his recovery? Will this change the way the heroine sees him?
Conflict forces the reader to ask questions, then read on to find out the answer.
So, does adding conflict come naturally to you? Was it a learned skill?