Creating conflict in fiction, author Karen Shepard puts it so clearly,
“Conflict is all about equally formidable forces trying to occupy the same space.”
I love it when someone puts a concept in a nutshell. This is all it is about. Your hero has a want and your villain has a want and they are in conflict with each other.
Think about conflict in fiction–Harry and Voldemort. At the beginning they may not seem like equals but this is a kid who, as a baby, nearly killed Voldemort.
Two equals trying to occupy the same space.
You could also try history with Hitler and Churchill or Roosevelt or Roosevelt and Hirohito. Equals, formidable, same space.
How is your hero today? Your villain can be stronger to start but your hero must rise to the occasion. Unless you are writing dystopian fiction or plan on killing everyone.
Your stakes must be through the roof for each character.
The minute you imbue a goal with a personal importance emotions appear.
For instance: I want to make enough money to send my daughter to college. It is important to me. Why? Because i want her to have options in life, to be able to support herself and find work she enjoys that does that for her.
Let’s go deeper. I didn’t finish and I have always wanted to.
Why didn’t I finish? I wanted to be an actress and felt I needed to be doing that. The next stage deeper is that I transferred schools to get into a journalism program.
Why did I transfer? Because my best friend committed suicide and I kept looking for him on campus and it was driving me nuts.
Why? Because I had no support from my family or school at that time. My family didn’t know him nor understand the depth of my despair and the school wanted to deny what happened. Needless to say finishing college is important to me for both my girls and myself.
What if I need 50 dollars for my daughter to apply to the school of her dreams? What if the deadline is today and I don’t have the money for the application? So I come to ask you for it. What if you have been working two jobs to pay off your loan so your car doesn’t get repossessed and your extension is up today?
What if I am Hirohito and I want to take the Hawaiian islands from the US and I want to eventually take the US–take a look at The Man In The High Castle to see a version of how that turned out.
Why do I want to do that?–I want to rule the world.
Stakes create conflict.
I want but you are in my way(or have what I need which makes you in my way)
I am now headed back to my book to take a look at how formidable I have made my hero and villain. In one book it is an entire government represented by a few individuals. In another the conflict is between what one character wants and the person she must win over to get it. And in my memoir it is not me versus cancer it is actually me versus a negative mindset I had to turn positive.
What are yours?
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