Monday, October 4, 2010

Ignite an Explosive Conflict

"For success, the author must make the reader care about the destiny of the principals, and sustain this anxiety, or suspense, for about 100,000 words."  Ken Follett

Tension, anxiety and suspense keep those pages turning, because the worried reader is eager to see what happens next!  Happy characters with no obstacles make for a boring narrative.  It's conflict that drives the story, so constantly think of ways to build the tension and keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat!

Readers want to root for the hero and heroine, see them win against the odds, and overcome the struggles they must face all the way through to the end of the novel. 

I'm in the process of rewriting of a particular scene, but I'm struggling to find a way to create more conflict in it.  Throughout the chapter, there's lots tension.  But in the part I'm reworking, it's late at night and my hero (a young abolitionist in 1856) has to sneak into the home of  his uncle (a slave owner) to steal some supplies to aid in the escape of the slave he loves.

The hero's love interest has almost died from a flogging before the hero goes to the house.  And after the hero leaves the house, he has a confrontation with the drunken overseer who inflicted the injuries upon his beloved.  But what can happen at the house? 

Although everyone is asleep, should the hero encounter someone while he's sneaking around?  His uncle disapproves of floggings, but was away all day, unaware of what had happened until his return.  The hero's aunt, a lash happy woman, is responsible for the punishment administered to the slave girl.  The cousin, a spoiled teen aged female, had seen the hero earlier with the girl and spilled the beans to her mother about their clandestine meetings.

If the hero runs into any of them, it will ignite an explosive conflict.  I just need to decide who, if anyone, it'll be.  Or perhaps I'll just have him drop something that makes a loud noise, or hide if he hears footsteps.  Decision, decisions.  Right now nothing happens and the scene is too convenient, yawn...

What do you think?  Should he encounter someone, accidentally drop something, or hide if he hears footsteps?  Conflict makes storytelling such great fun!

Tweet me @:maria_mckenzie.  Thanks for stopping by!   


William Kendall said...

Perhaps a near encounter?

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi William. I like the idea of a "heart racing" near encounter:). Thanks!