Creating Conflict

Conflict is a key component in plotting and pondering the narrative structure, giving the characters a reason to act (or to react) in order to bring about change to the status quo, or to restore order in the midst of chaos. There are different types of conflicts upon which the foundation of the story rests – there are the internal, oftentimes philosophical, conflicts a character needs to overcome within themselves in order to complete the task at hand; then there are the external conflicts between characters that drive the narrative. The external conflicts have the uncanny ability to concurrently unite and divide (depending on with which side the characters align), while the internal conflicts a character wrestles with can have repercussions upon the narrative.

Creating conflict for a story is a complex process that needs a great deal of plotting and pondering and deliberating, with flow charts to track the impact to the characters and the world in which they inhabit. It’s akin to tossing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples form upon the surface – a single action disrupting the calm for a period of time until the surface returns to its former state. The time frame from when the conflict arises to when order is restored can vary – it can be resolved in one book, or stretch out across several novels. There can be tangents that take the characters off the main road and lead them to a side quest that can harm or help the main objective. There can also be a false sense of victory wherein the resolved conflict was only a prelude to the main conflict – this tactic is often used in RPGs (role playing games) when the hero thinks he/she has beat the final boss, only to discover the true final boss emerge from the shadows.

The conflict need not be of epic proportions – an argument between characters over a perceived slight or miscommunication can be as riveting, giving the reader an emotional attachment to the characters and a vested interest into its resolution. That is, if there is one. There’s also the possibility that the protagonist fails to complete the quest they set upon, leaving a legacy for others to (hopefully) take up to fight the good fight and carry the banner (so to speak).

In crafting a mystery set in a quasi-alternate historical universe, there are many facets to creating the tension that will ultimately lead to conflict. It’s an intricate puzzle, with subplots to pair off with the main plot, characters that may or may not have ulterior motives in solving the mystery. While the intention is to have each book in the first series to be a standalone novel, there will inevitably be threads that will meander throughout the series, and when pieced together, create an intricate tapestry.

At least, that’s the goal – much of the general plot is generally plotted. The details are proving a bit tricky with the road looking a bit treacherous with all the ice piled about, making travelling slower than usual. The Land of Exposition received an unprecedented amount of snow and unexpected wind gusts that nearly closed down the Character Development Inn, causing a mild case of cabin fever.

Spring is supposed to be ‘just around the corner’ – hopefully things will get better.

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