Blogger and book fanatic, Tez Miller stopped by to give her take on conflict between characters and why it’s so necessary for strong books.

A guest blog by Tez Miller of Tez Says The necessity of conflict caren estesen
I can agree with what you have to say, but disagree with the way you present it. This goes for songs, TV shows, and people complaining about whatever on the Internet. But it also goes for fiction.

There was this author I was unsure about whether to keep her books on my wish-list. I’d read a handful of them, and they lacked conflict. Yes, they were romance novels, but romance’s golden rule is a happy-ever-after or happy-for-now – other than that you have free rein. Before a reader even cracks open the book, they know the ending, but that shouldn’t mean the novel itself should be conflict-free. Your couple/triad/whatever are allowed to disagree and argue, because that stops the story from being boring. One of the key reasons I stop reading a book before its end is because it’s not entertaining me.

One of the key elements of any novel in any genre is conflict – internal, between characters, between a situation, and within society at large. And one of the most disappointing situations in fiction is when readers can see the potential for conflict…but it doesn’t eventuate.

The author I considered quitting answered questions from readers. Someone else, not I, asked whether we’d find out who was Child Character’s biological father. Child’s mother was in a triad relationship, and Child was given a hyphenated surname – both the surnames of the men. The author wrote that she answer that, because to her it didn’t matter. Her point was that family is family, whether you’re genetically related or otherwise.

I agree with her point wholeheartedly. But I dislike that she deliberately chose to ignore the potential for conflict. And this could’ve been a big conflict, leading the characters to dig deep and deal with uncomfortable emotions. Her moral could’ve been the story’s ending, when all the characters come together to realise what’s important, but the journey to get there could’ve been an entire novel in itself. But she chose not to go down that path.

That was when with certainty I deleted the author’s book titles from my wish-list, stopped following her blog and social media. When reading fiction, I want to be entertained above all else, and that means I need conflict – and lots of it. Making life easier for the characters makes stories more boring for readers, or at least this reader.

That author may be a best-seller in the US, but you know who’s an international best-seller? Jodi Picoult.
I love Jodi’s books. Each tackles a difficult issue, and examines both sides. And she doesn’t demonise either viewpoint – all characters are just working for the best outcome for their team, whether it is themselves, their family, or their community.
These aren’t easy reads. They’re heavy and emotional, but I love them because the author never takes the easy way out. She makes life very complicated for her characters. They do things they don’t really want to do because they want a particular outcome. They have to prioritise things, and people, and keep their eye on the prize.

This is why Jodi Picoult is an international best-seller.

Here’s a list of things to consider when writing and revising:

-Has your novel fulfilled its potential for conflict?

-Does your novel have enough conflict?

-Do you fully examine both sides in depth?

In short, ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS, AND FULLY EXPLORE ALL THE UNCOMFORTABLE ANSWERS. You may not want to. But conflict is entertainment, and entertainment keeps readers readings. And that’s what makes an international best-seller.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: THE NECESSITY OF CONFLICT

  1. Tez,
    I agree. I’ve read some genre fiction that from all appearances seems great. Then a few chapters into the book, I often question if an eighth grader wrote it and where is this story going? Characters move from farm to Inn and back to farm or famous characters (mostly women) turn out to be witches or troll children. I don’t get it, but perhaps these authors are under pressure to churn out a book a every year. In many cases, these stories do lack depth and real conflict themes.

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