Conflict sells. Whether you are reading a book, watching TV, or viewing a movie, if everything is happy-go-lucky all the time, there isn’t much reason to keep reading or watching as you probably aren’t wondering what will happen next. People thrive off of twists and turns. They want mystery, suspense, and indecision. They desire friction, as it escalates plotlines, enhances character development, and reinforces the age-old quest for sheer entertainment. We live in an “entertainment culture,” if I do say so myself. People seek entertainment because it stimulates their senses. It excites their emotions, and it offers something in place of predictability.
Despite the wish for a happy ending – and believe me, I ooh and aah with the best of them for one of those – trials, tribulations, and all those annoying adversaries must come out of the woodwork to make that happy ending all the more magical. If you’re a writer, spice up your stories with it. Make a young girl the object of ridicule and rejection, only to make her all the more deserving of being crowned homecoming queen. Capture the angst of a restaurant owner who can’t seem to drum up any business until a famous celebrity eats there one day and publicizes the homemade apple pie as the best he’s ever tasted. Every story you’ve read, movie you’ve seen, or TV show you’ve watched, if it is any good, has some sort of conflict in it. Even if you don’t notice it at first glance, look again – it is there. Someone may have a problem with someone else. It may be a squabble at the cash register about the price of cereal. A fight may break out as a result. There are so many options. Use them as a guide to crafting your own.
Writers seek involvement with the subject matter they are reading. So too should readers. It is important that readers know how to pinpoint what the conflict is, when it started, where it escalated, and how it ended. This will make the reading journey all that much more enjoyable and profound so that when you move on to other works, you can appreciate them all the more for the conflict that interests and fuels your reading desire.
My novel, ‘Freshman Fourteen,’ incorporates a lot of conflict early on especially, as I felt it quite necessary to make main character Margot’s journey through freshman year as difficult as possible at the start. In my mind, that would make her that much more worthy of going through the journey to get past all of the troubles she had. They serve to make her a stronger, more purposeful character.
Anything can be construed as conflict. Even writer’s block (or reader’s block, when you don’t know what to pick as your next read) is a conflict. Use the examples above to resolve this and master your own writing and reading techniques.