Fiction Friction & Constant Conflict

Back to editing basics.  Point of view, or POV, should probably have followed voice, because it relates to the eyes through which the story is told.  What the heck.  Let’s mix it up like a can of nuts.

Per Rey’s recent post, we’ll look at friction and conflict—what to consider, rework or rewrite (e-d-i-t), improve.

friction =  tension  / antagonism  / discord

 conflict =  struggle  /  clash  /  controversy

Friction and conflict are a must for fiction novels.  They bring your story alive; they create fire.  Tension should exist between characters.  If they’re all happy and smiley, huggy and kissie, the story [plot and subplots] lean toward flat and boring.  That’s not to say that everyone should be fighting and cursing all the time because that, too, can quickly grow wearisome.  There should constantly be enough of both throughout the story to make it compelling—to draw in readers and hold them through an emotional, exciting roller-coaster ride. friction2

Friction and conflict, as an FYI, don’t have to be between two or more persons; they can exist within an individual.  Maybe he/she has an inner demon or two to conquer.  The eventual conquest of conflict can draw two (or more) characters together—like a romance hero and heroine riding into a vivid sunset on a valiant stallion—or enable a self-doubting or struggling individual to develop and mature.

Dissention between two characters or more is referred to as external friction while that within a solitary character is internal.  There’s no reason why you can’t employ both.  A quick/simple example might be this: the heroine suffers from agoraphobia, but the hero is a renowned musician and must tour often.  Heroine loves hero, and vice versa.  How does she overcome overwhelming anxiety so she can accompany him on tours?  How does he deal with (react to) her repeated debilitating/fretful fear?

The Triple Threat Investigation Agency series incorporates conflicts between people: as the private eyes doggedly track a murderer or two, they butt heads with various people in the process.  For many genres of fiction, person-against-person is commonplace.  If however you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy or steampunk, or speculative fiction, conflict and friction can occur amid paranormal or technological entities.

Whether external or internal, friction brings a story to life; it offers insight into characters (what they think and feel, how they respond, what makes them tick).  If it’s weak or illogical, or humdrum, it’s not going to do much for the tale or reader.  When you’re editing, give thought to whether:

⇒  the main goal of your main character(s) is clear (what drives him/her)     ⇒  the “problem” (the plot/storyline) is well-defined and logical     ⇒  motivation, struggle(s), and attitude are evident and sound     ⇒  you’re throwing enough hurdles (obstacles) along the track to keep your hero/heroine leaping to the finish line     ⇒  you’re creating empathy (the hero/heroine should possess frailties, flaws and fears that the reader can relate to)     ⇒  doubt exists (i.e. do some scenarios have your reader wondering [worrying] if a grave situation will be resolved?)     ⇒  secondary characters prove hostile or portentous, thus adding to the conflict and friction     ⇒  friction and conflict are suitably drawn out (resolution shouldn’t come too quickly).

When you’re editing, carefully review every scene.  Does each one draw your protagonist closer to his/her goal—i.e. help solve the “problem”?  Consider it this way: action = reaction.  Something transpires—an event or emotion—that affects the main character.  He/she progresses, stumbles, changes . . . and reacts to the conflict in some way.  If the scene doesn’t contain conflict and/or friction—and neither has to always be of gargantuan proportions—there’s no advancement of the character or story.  As such, maybe it needs to be rewritten or even discarded.

In a mystery, as quick example, the P.I. may hit stumbling block after stumbling block in the quest to locate a killer.  Red herrings are strewn along the winding path.  Just when it’s certain the killer will be unveiled, another body drops.  Frustration looms.  Self-doubt—can I solve this crazy case?—increases.  A developing desire to give up may overwhelm.  Finally, a confrontation with the killer transpires into fisticuffs . . . and it’s not clear who’ll win.

Vary the intensity of friction and conflict.  View it like a NASCAR race:

⇒  is the car speeding along at a fantastic (winning) speed     ⇒  can it maneuver those rain-drenched turns     ⇒  will it manage to pull into the pit stop safely despite a low or blown tire     ⇒  will strong winds serve as an impairment     ⇒  what about that loose steering wheel . . . .

Incidents, events and emotions are your driving forces.  Ensure friction and conflict flow logically and effectively.  Think of them like keeping your ducks in a row. ducksinrow

Author: tylerus

I'm primarily a writer of fiction and blog posts, and a sometimes editor and proofreader of books, manuals, and film/television scripts. Fact-checking and researching, organizing and coordinating are skills and joys (I enjoy playing detective and developing structure). My fiction audience: lovers of female-sleuth mysteries. My genres of preference: mysteries (needless to say), women’s fiction, informative and helpful “affirmative” non-fiction. So-o, here I am, staring up a new blog for aspiring and established e-Book writers. The plan: to share the (long) journey of getting to this stage, and share "learnings" and "teachings". There's a lot I hope to accomplish with this blog, but it may be a while before that happens as there's a lot on the ol' plate - taking care of Mom, working full-time, and attempting to get another book in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series written (never mind blog postings and other writing projects). It's very challenging and it's all good. As I like to say: teeny focused baby steps are just as effective as long forceful strides. It may take a little longer, but we will get there.

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