So you’re all set to start writing. You have your favorite drink or snack on hand, you have the timer set for at least 10 minutes, ready to get down at least some words that sound semi smart in this writing session, and you have your characters all fleshed out and ready to go.
Or do you?
Part of being a writer is working with conflict and how it affects your characters. Every conflict should affect characters in some way, but certain conflicts will affect them more.
Take the difference between a trained fighter and a plumber. If you put the fighter into an MMA ring, he would have no problems understanding how to fight and possibly win against the other fighter. You put that plumber in the ring and now you have a conflict. Does the plumber know how to win against the other fighter or not?
There is your conflict.
I like to think of conflict as “What is the worst possible thing that could happen to this character that they could possibly come out of and possibly be happy?”
An example I’ll give you is from the series I am currently working on. The main character in book one, when his story starts, is a weakling who lets other people make most of his choices for him. In the relationship with his best friend, he is the weaker of the two, and he lets her run the show. When the shift happens, when his best friend can no longer make decisions, he has to step up and be the strong one in their relationship. This is part of his growth throughout the series, and it creates conflict later in the series when she starts to make choices for herself again.
The best way to make a conflict is to decide how far you want to push your characters. What they need to be pushed forward into their world and fight for what they need.
A good rule of thumb is to use opposites.
Let’s return to the plumber and the fighter for a few moments. Let’s say the plumber is a pacifist and is against fighting, but his wife and kids are kidnapped by someone. Pacifist plumber tries the nice route, going to where the villain is keeping his wife and kids, but he gets his ass handed to him by the hulk like bouncer. Now Mr. Plumber has a choice, which creates conflict.
Should he go against his ideals and train to kick the bouncer’s ass and save his family, or should he keep his ideals and try to deal with the villain another way?
Depending on what you, as the writer, choose, it could be two very different stories.
How do you make your conflicts match your characters strengths and weaknesses?