Balancing the Conflict

Novelists often hear that their character’s conflict must be balanced. What does this mean?
Writing Tip for Today: Every character has both an outer life and an inner life. The outer conflict you give this person should be important enough to affect far more than only that character. But all action and no emotions makes this character a dull guy or gal. Consider these things when you imbue your character with traits and saddle him with problems:

  • No Upstaging. If the inner life of the character keeps upstaging the plot, one remedy might be to increase the overall stakes of the novel. This can be done through the use of a time barrier or by increasing the effects of the character’s decisions on others. Conversely, if the reader doesn’t care or know of the character’s inner turmoil, the story will be shallow and two-dimensional.
  • Plot the Possibilities. When you are still drafting, you might think about the ways your character’s conflicts affect the other players and the world at large. Try to think in opposites or in cliches turned on their heads. For example, a dog lover falls in love with someone allergic to dogs. You can change these “opposites” as you gain a clearer picture of the overall story.
  • Alone=Boring. If you spend too many words on inner thoughts, memories or other soliloquies, your story is liable to feel cramped, confining or like so-much navel-gazing. Realize that readers crave action and they demand real-time action most of the time. If you notice that your character is alone on stage, try to get another player onstage as soon as possible.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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