Monday, February 26, 2007

Character Conflict

Someone once said to me that they were having trouble with conflict in their story. For example, they had a protagonist and a sidekick and a problem. Both characters knew what they had to do, so they worked together and did it. Problem solved. But too quickly, too neatly. And the writer didn’t see how they could insert any conflict since the characters were working together and knew what had to be done. And yet … the writer didn’t want things to go so smoothly.

Of course you can always insert problems that arise from outside influences or from the antagonist. But you can also have problems between the two characters, despite their common goal. Just look at real life.

At the moment, I’m trying to set up a get-together between myself and my two sisters. We all want to get together. Solution -- pick a place and a date and do it. We’re working together and we know what the goal is. Simple right?

Wrong. Every one of us is different and it doesn’t matter that we have a common goal. Sister One lives in Minnesota. She wants us to come up there. After all, she came down to Texas last time and she really, really, HATES the heat in Texas. So Sister Two and I will go up there. Here comes the conflict. I love to fly, but Sister Two hates to fly. We could drive, but Sister Two also doesn’t like to drive long distance because it makes her sleepy, so I’d have to drive. If the drive was the trip and we’d be stopping along the way for side trips and overnights, I could do it. But the goal is not the drive. We could take the train, but it takes 31 hours and only goes as far as Chicago. Sister One doesn’t want to meet us in Chicago – that’s a full day’s drive for her, after all. Sister One suggested we go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina instead. I reminded her that’s a two day drive from Texas. Her solution – fly!

And we’re back at square one. The crazy part is – a get-together was my idea.

If you look at things not just from this is where my character is and this is where he needs to be and this is the straightest way to get there, but rather from the different points of views and concerns of all the parties, you have conflict. It will arise naturally

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