I'm going to write two very basic (and otherwise uninteresting) scenarios and then attempt to show how adding conflict gives the scenes depth. Here we go:
Scenario A - The Soccer Game
- Jeremy walks to his nephew's soccer game. Here we have no conflict. No real story.
- But at the game, another boy's father, Steve, shoves Jeremy. Oooooh External Conflict. A reader's drawn in--who wouldn't be? We all reading love a good physical confrontation. Plus we want to know how Jeremy reacts. How do the soccer players react? How does Jeremy's nephew react? How does Steve's son react? What will this one shove set in motion for the MC and for everyone else?
- Jeremy takes it, and doesn't shove Steve back. He wants to, but he restrains himself for two reasons: he doesn't want to set a bad example for his nephew (ehh, okay... not tons of conflict, but it does show us a little bit about Jeremy), but also because he had an affair with Steve's wife... he flashes back to their last time together. We see his hand on her smooth tanned thigh--and then the tears in her eyes when she confesses that she's been honest with Steve and ends it. Jeremy still loves her. He let her go because it's what she wanted, but he longs for her still. So he won't push back because he's really the one who wronged Steve... and because he knows the woman he loves wouldn't want him to. Aaaaand hello Internal Conflict. Now a reader wants to know how it started... Why'd she tell Steve? What type of a man worries about setting a good example for his nephew but sleeps with another man's wife? When did it happen? Is Steve a good man, or should she leave him to be with Jeremy?
The list could go on...
- Elena is failing her art class. On her last assignment, she recieved a 38%. So what? There's nothing special about this... lots of students fail classes.
- But she's actually a brilliant artist and aced the first three assignments of the year. Okay, now a reader might be a LITTLE bit intrigued, because it's natural to wonder what caused the discrepancy. We sense the possibility of (wo)man vs self conflict here. Or maybe (wo)man vs man. We kind of want to read on to find out.
- She's failing because she recently found out that her grandmother is dying of cancer, and she can't seem to concentrate on anything else. She's discovered that she's scared of death and is heartbroken by the pending loss of someone that she loves. She feels selfish for this new fear of death because she wants to believe that her grandmother is going to Heaven, but deep down she doesn't believe in an afterlife. It terrifies her that when her grandmother dies she might simply end... that no part of her continues on. And now we've hit the motherload of Internal Conflict--readers form a connection with Elena. They feel sympathetic, possibly empathetic, for her. They want to see her come to terms and they'll read on because they want to see her overcome this fear of disbelief.
- Elena wants to go talk to her best friend about it after school, but her mother grounds her for the failing grade and takes away phone priviledges. So Elena tries to talk to her mother about it instead, but the mom's too wrapped up in her own grief to understand. She sends Elena to her room. External Conflict adds another level to the story. Elena is kept from what she wants... in this case, what she needs. Now we want to keep reading for a plethora of reasons. Will she spiral further out of control? Will she find another source of help? Is her mother a bad mother--or just really screwed up with grief--to not see what Elena's going through? What are the other family dynamics? Curiosity is peaked and the connection to Elena deepens. This has developed into a story.
|(Copyright © Adam Romanowicz)|