Conflict in Life & in Our Writing

21 Sep

“Plot is characters under stress.”  — Henry James, The Art of Fiction.


As you can tell from my recent posts, I have had my share of stress recently but that is all getting better.


I had a wonderful weekend.  I spent Saturday with the Iowa Romance Novelists for our monthly meeting.  Our program was fantabulous.  Three members of the Omaha chapter put on a “So You Think You Can Write” program.  One was Nigella with the great British accent, Lizzie Star – who portrayed a rapper and a pirate, and Sherrie S. who loved gossip, fashion, men, and all that that implies.


Sunday I met with a fellow writer friend to discuss a new project we will be working on.  It felt wonderful to find someone with the same interests.  With lunch, we started planning our strategy.


Tonight I meet with my critique group.  It motivates me to read what they have to share.  The group is diverse as far as genres but it is mostly women with one guy.   I love reading the wip and watching everyone grow in their writing abilities.


Later this week, I am meeting with a couple other writer friends to see about starting up a Sisters in Crime chapter. 

Life has been stressful with my job situation but it has ebbed and now it is starting to flow again.  I understand that life doesn’t stay the same, it is always changing. And that’s okay. I can use those feelings of stress for my writing. That’s a good place for it.


All of this leads into what I wanted to discuss – Conflict.  Conflict causes stress in our lives and naturally, we try to eliminate it.  But with our writing, we need to create as much conflict as we can to create something that someone will first –  pick up to read and second – continue through to the end.


Without conflict in our story, we have no story.  It’s that simple.  Who wants to read about happy people? That isn’t to say you can’t write something with a happy ending but you need to give them some conflict along the way. Thanks, But This Isn't For UsWhen we see characters whose lives are more difficult than our own, I think it makes us feel better about ourselves. We also have a natural tendency to root for the underdog.  So if your characters are flowing smoothly through the story, you are doing something wrong. In a book I’ve been reading – Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us by Jessica Page Morrell, she suggests these forms of conflict:


  • Man against man
  • Man against nature
  • Man against the supernatural
  • Man against himself
  • Man against fate
  • Man against society
  • Man against machine
  • Man against God


To see how to use these forms of conflict, I recommend you check out her book.  Conflict is only one chapter.  She covers every aspect of writing.


I have barely touched the surface of what she recommends you do to improve the conflict in your story.  Have the courage to torture your characters.  Your readers will appreciate it.


My goal this week is to finish a chapter and possibly write a short story that keeps floating around.  What are your goals this week?  Do you have any favorite writing books you want to share?


Until next time,




Posted by on September 21, 2009 in Conflict, Writing a Novel


Tags: ,

2 responses to “Conflict in Life & in Our Writing

  1. K

    September 22, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I’m glad the stress level is winding down as well. 🙂


  2. K

    September 22, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    It must be fabulous to have such a wonderful support group for writing. I need to look into what is available around Iowa City – you would think there would be a lot since the Writer’s Studio is here but I never hear of anything.

    Thanks for the insight into conflict – I hadn’t thought of it that way before and tend to go easy on the conflict between the characters because I, myself, avoid conflict. I will check out the book too – it sounds interesting.

    My goal this week is to read my oldest story again and work on refining it.



What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: