As writers gear up for NaNo, I want to review an important tidbit to keep in mind.
Stories thrive on tension and a sure-fire way to create tension is through conflict. Not only can conflict occur between characters, it can also happen within a character.
Here are some examples of conflict between characters:
- Protagonist vs. Antagonist
- Protagonist vs. BFF
- Protagonist vs. Parent
- Protagonist vs. Love Interest
- Antagonist vs. Minion
Pretty straight forward, right?
So how do you develop conflict within a character?
- Put him or her in a situation where he/she has to choose between two “bad” choices. (Does the phrase “the lesser of two evils” come to mind?)
- Make it so the antagonist is a sympathetic character and let the protagonist see it. This will put him or her at odds with defeating the “bad guy” versus giving them forgiveness or helping them.
- Set things up so the protagonist can’t necessarily tell the difference between reality or fantasy. This doesn’t have to apply strictly to paranormal or even psychosis, but situations can be open to interpretation and it all boils down to perception. For example, if a protag sees her love interest hug an attractive woman, the protag may assume he’s married or dating when in reality the “other woman” could be a cousin or sister.
- Like all humans, it’s natural for our protag’s to have mixed emotions about things. For example, maybe the protag is trying to quit drinking because he’s got a DWI, but his buddies are egging him on to drink. He knows he shouldn’t, but dammit, why can’t he have a good time like everybody else?
- Remember that the higher the stakes, the more tension and the more conflict arises.
What strategies do you use to raise tension and conflict between and within a character?