Writing Secrets: Passionate love-making? Where’s the conflict?

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

Without conflict, there is no story, right? It’s a truism, and one we should all know.

Something disturbs the balance of life, which is where a story begins. What new writers often forget, though, is that conflict isn’t just essential for your story as a whole.

Every situation in which you place your characters must create some challenge for them. They want something, which they can’t get, even (as Kurt Vonnegut said) if it’s only a glass of water.

I was thinking of this the other day, reading a submission from one of our mentoring participants. Her character was part of a magical love scene with someone she was crazy about. Everything was perfect. It was dusk on a tropical beach, no sand seemed to get where it shouldn’t, and he told her she was beautiful.

Ah, you might say, where’s the conflict? Well … in the reader’s mind, even if conflict was the last thing on her character’s mind right then.

As readers, we understand that stories don’t exist without conflict. In life, we mistrust situations which seem too perfect, and so do we in stories. Perfect sex on a tropical beach with a gorgeous man she’s been hankering for? What is about to go wrong?

And sure enough, in just the next scene, he had eyes only for an underwear model, and seemed to have forgotten how beautiful she was.

The conflict was there all along: in the different agendas of the characters. He and she wanted completely different things from the encounter. Only, in that moment, she was too naïve and starry-eyed to recognise it. It was left to us readers to shake our heads and think: uh oh, wake up, girl.

Read Richard’s latest blog: Monday Motivation: Nobody knows anything

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