Conflict in Your MS

Conflict in your manuscript is a MUST! Without it, you might as well be writing a Math textbook (not that there is anything wrong with that,IF you are trying to write one!)  Oh, and or your information, I LOVE Math and Math textbooks!

So I have looked into some things, including my own writing and the writing of others, and I think I have come up with some pretty good guidelines.

Please remember that all authors, all genres, and all novels are different.

1) Have a running conflict throughout the entire story. This usually pretty simple in terms of conflict. In most cases, but not all, these are the issues the main character, or characters, have to face within themselves. For example, I just finished reading THE GUARDIAN of GA’HOOLE  Book 1: The Capture. (Yes I still read MG at times). In this case, the running conflict involves Soren, the Barn Owl. He searches for the ability to believe in himself. It is subtle, but there.

2) This conflict is actually what you probably think of as conflict. It is the man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. environment etc. So where does this first conflict fall within your manuscript? Well, it does vary, but usually it occurs around the 1/4 mark in your story. This is a sample of the major conflict that comes toward the end of your book, but we will be getting to that in a little bit. You want this conflict to be exciting, and engross the reader, however, be careful not to make it too big or the climax at the end will turn into an anti-climax, and you definitely don’t want that to happen!

3) Most books have another climax near the middle of the book, usually just after the 1/2 point. Again, this needs to draw the reader deeper into the work, but not feel insurmountable for the characters. You are still trying to climb the slope rising to the final climax.

4) This is the most important one of your conflicts. It comes at, or near, the end of the work. A seemingly unresolvable problem faces the main characters. How will they make? Or will they even make it through? Only you can answer these questions! This is the major conflict in your story and must be extremely exciting to keep your reader on the edge of his seat. This is also where the running conflict in the novel is resolved. For me, this is the BEST part of the novel! All your hard work pays off when this is done correctly.

5) There is one more kind of conflict. It is not found in all books, maybe not even in most books, but it can be important especially if you are working on a series. This happens after the major climax. It is the place where you leave a little something extra that could lead to another novel, or series of novels. BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!! especially if you are trying to get published for the first time. Often agents do not like to sign a new writer when the first novel is the beginning of a series. It makes sense if you think about it. They don’t know how well your first novel will sell, so why should they invest their time when the story doesn’t really end? You can get around this, if you make the manuscript a stand alone novel with a single sentence that could lead to a new novel. That way the agent/editor/publisher can decide whether to include it or not. REMEMBER: Make the novel a stand alone story!! Just add a little bit at the end that suggests there could be another of the same type in the works.

Okay, now a disclaimer: All these thoughts are my own and do not represent anyone else’s opinions. This is a formula I use in MY writing and may not work for you!




Filed under characters, climax, conflict, editing, ideas, inspiration, novel, rules, story, writing

3 responses to “Conflict in Your MS

  1. One of my favorite works on story structure is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. He uses Joseph Campbell’s model of the hero’s journey as a framework for plot. And this structure relies on gradually intensifying tests that the protagonist must face, similar to what you’re talking about here (but in lot more detail cuz it’s a huge and awesome book).

    I think you’d like it, you should check it out!

  2. I have to agree. Without conflict there is just nothing interesting to drive the story forward. Either with others, or even with themselves.

    Often I find that the most interesting stories have several conflicts running through them. Layers upon layers. 😀

    Our poor characters. What we put them through to make a good story. 😉

  3. Michelle4Laughs

    And don’t forget to include conflict between your characters. All my protagonist characters, fighting on the same side, squabble between themselves. They certainly don’t always agree with each other and the bickering adds interest and realism.

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