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While we’re all programmed to avoid conflict, however, it's the tension created by conflict that is the driving force that creates a page-turner for your readers. Katsu argued that conflict is not the straight, steep uphill climb writers have been taught, but a jagged up-and-down ascent that moves upward until the climax and dénouement.
Conflict is every barrier that keeps a protagonist (or character) from obtaining their goal and can be either internal or external. We should use conflict to develop plot as well as reveal character and it applies to all characters, but it’s not the same as story or plot. Conflict is multi-layered. It drives your story forward and it adds dimension to your characters.
Katsu identified four types of conflict that are in every good story: central conflict; underlying, or chronic conflict; internal conflict; and transient conflict. If you’re finding your scene flat, you should analyze each scene, identifying the conflict. One or more of these four types of conflict should be in every scene. You need to ask yourself, "Do events resolve too easily?" If the answer is yes, then ask a second question: "What’s the worst thing that could happen here." Then make it happen.
Each step of progress your character makes should be met with opposition and setbacks in some form. By charting out your character’s goals and progress through the story, you can also see if you’ve inserted enough opposition to create the conflict and tension you need to keep your readers interested and reading.
The workshop provided excellent information and tools for any writer to improve their craft. Katsu is hoping to present a variation of this workshop at RWA Nationals in San Antonio next July. I’d recommend that you catch her talk wherever you can. For a list of her upcoming events, see below.
She’s a great teacher with a different angle on conflict that gives any writer concrete, actionable steps to adding conflict to every single scene of their books. You don’t want to miss her practical wisdom because conflict is the bedrock of your fiction writing!
Find Alma on her website at: http://www.almakatsu.com/
Blog Question: So what's your experience with conflict in your fiction? Is it hard or easy for you to see and build in? And who have you found does it really well?