Want to write a novel readers love? If you do, you’ll need to become comfortable with conflict. This can be a real challenge, because most of us hate conflict in our lives. But unfortunately if you try to avoid conflict in your fiction you’ll get reviews which call your novel “boring” or “thin”: you haven’t given your readers want they want. (By the way — short stories need conflict and emotion too.)
Essentially, readers read to escape to another world, or to learn something.
Write a novel readers love, and can experience
Readers read to experience. If you can’t touch their emotions, they’ll stop reading.
It’s always useful to read readers’ reviews on Amazon. Bestselling authors aren’t immune from bad reviews, and you can find a lot of these types of comments when authors haven’t delivered a novel that readers want:
- “Waste of money. Nothing much happened…”
- “The story ended at 50% and then dragged on… ”
- “Boring, no tension, too thin…”
Let’s look at five tips which will help you to write a novel which readers love.
1. Kick your main character at least once every 1000 to 1500 words
When I’m writing a novel or short stories, my scenes usually average around 1500 words. When you write a scene, it’s much like writing a novel. The scene has a set up, rising action, a climax, and then it’s over. In other words, every scene gives you a fresh opportunity to make life more difficult for your characters. Take that opportunity.
2. “What’s the worst thing that could happen now?”
The easiest way to include a lot of conflict in your novel is to have each and every character have a conflict with every other character.
Although this sounds difficult, it’s not. Think about the people you love. Your partner, or your child. Do you have conflicts with them? Of course you do. They’re minor conflicts: they do things you don’t agree with and they know you so well that they push your buttons effortlessly.
That said, you want your story to be one in which something happens. Therefore, in addition to the major obstacles to your main character getting what he or she wants, and minor conflicts, you need constant additional obstacles.
It’s all trouble and strife, all the time. 🙂
Think about the conflicts that your characters have with each other, and aim to have something bad happen in each and every scene.
3. Take away what your character values most
What does your character value? Perhaps you’re writing a New Adult novel. Your main character is a young woman who’s just left college. She’s managed to get the job of her dreams — that’s what she values most. So take that away.
Or perhaps she doesn’t realize what she values most. She takes an overseas job, and realizes what she values most is the man she left behind.
Always torture your characters. Your readers want an involving story. You can give it to them.
4. Ensure that conflict happens because of who your characters are
When new authors first hear about “creating conflict”, they tend to have a lot of conflict happening, but that conflict isn’t directly related to the characters.
For example, perhaps the main character gets involved in a minor fender bender. Or the character does something embarrassing. We all have stuff going wrong all the time, and these minor contretemps are useless in fiction. Readers read for escape — they don’t want to read about minor nuisances because they experience them themselves, daily.
Vital: every conflict which happens in your novel must relate directly to the story question, and must happen because of who your main characters are.
5. Resist your own resistance to conflict
There’s an old saying which goes something like this: if the novel’s characters are having fun, the reader isn’t.
Never make things easy on your characters. Ensure that each and every scene contains conflict. Scenes are “showing”, rather than “telling” (narration), so before you start writing a scene, ask yourself: “what’s the conflict? Who wants what? Who opposes that? How?”
When you write a novel, make your characters FIGHT for what they want
In summary, when you write a novel, make your characters fight for what they want.
Your characters are proactive: they know what they want, and they make plans to get what they want. When they fail, they try again, and again.
Go ahead and kick your characters. Your readers will love it. 🙂
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