Monday, April 18, 2011

The Conflict Of The Matter

One of the most important facets in a novel is conflict. If your novel has no conflict, you have no novel.

William Noble, author of Conflict, Action And Suspense writes:

But even before we have drama, we must have conflict. It is the essence of story development, and whether we call it tension, discord, or a host of other synonyms, it means, simply, that the story contains someone or something struggling with someone or something and the outcome is in doubt. Conflict creates drama, and it establishes the focus of the action or the suspense to follow.

In my second novel, The Palmetto Connection, my main character, Anne Corey is dealing with conflict. Anne is living under the Witness Security Program. Her decision to do so puts her in conflict with her society. She must pretend her life is normal and never share her secret with anyone. That choice alters her life and gives her character depth.

Six years into the program, Anne realizes her new identity is no longer safe and her enemies are close to finding her. Her conflict increases when one someone begins killing the people she cares about. Her troubles escalate when she seeks assistance from the one person who can help her, her only link between her former life and her new, and learns he is dead. Anne wants to help the authorities catch the killer but finds the task impossible. She cannot reveal the information she knows without jeopardizing more lives or her identity. Yet, she feels compelled to do something.

Anne Corey's dilemma is an example of threatening, or edge-of-your-seat, conflict. However, subtle conflict can be just as suspenseful.

Noble writes, “When we write a suspense scene, we must see it as a buildup of uncertainty, keeping the reader guessing and leaving question marks. . . For a good story to emerge, the conflict must be clear and unambiguous. We must know who or what is pitted against whom or what, and we must understand the consequences.”

Does your story have conflict? Is it threatening or subtle conflict? I look forward to reading your comments.


  1. Ah, great point about conflict--and that it can be more subtle, too. Like you said, the key is to keep the reader guessing and reading on!

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