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Create Conflict in Story

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Conflict Drives Story

Let's look at some of the keys to building the tension and conflict in a story.

1. Set your hook early. The first sentences need to get the reader involved. Examples could start with a scary statement, a question to confuse or concern, fragments of a raw discussion, physical violence, a declaration of enmity, a shock or surprise, an argument.

2. Introduce the main character, (MC), your protagonist, and give the reader a reason to care what happens to him/her. Reveal a character weakness/flaw in the MC and the objectives or desires the MC feels he/she needs to achieve. (The reader needs to relate to the MC, to feel close and see him/her as special, someone the reader wants to support and wants to succeed.) Establish empathy between the reader and MC while the story sets up the conflict between the needs of the MC and the difficulties and opposition ahead.

3. The MC must be forced out of a present comfort zone and forced into a new situation - (often referred to as a new world). This will immediately throw the MC off balance and at a disadvantage. Give MC a hard time and tough alternative choices and have the stakes continually rising in severity while the solutions become more difficult to achieve. An underlying threat can be a constant source of tension.

4. Set up a series of attempts to reach the objective along with a series of abject failures. There must eventually be an All is Lost moment when the MC has no way out of the mess he/she is in, with an unlikely escape scenario. This will require the MC to a revised assessment of the situation and consultation with a mentor and/or the MC's potential allies before launching a last-ditch effort.

5. Ensure the antagonist(s) is/are clever and devious and constantly creating major difficulties for the MC. And have a face to face meeting with the MC in the climactic scenes. Remember that for conflict to be meaningful there must be a reason. Make the reason for the conflict tangible.

6. The essence of the hero's journey is the change experience. While the external outcomes will be clear, the reader will care about the internal effects on the morale and attitudes of the protagonist.

7. Deliver a strong ending, one that is true to the promise of the story. Evaluate the consequences of the conflict for the main characters. Did they experience change?

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