Thursday, February 10, 2011


We've discussed a lot of the story idea process, but the one element we haven't discussed yet is conflict. There is a good reason for that. Conflict and good plot are the main things I struggle with. I can create worlds that are rife with conflict--worlds where pickpockets are dominated by mobsters then taken off the street by a man feared by mobsters and regular people alike--but somehow I can't make that conflict jump off the page. Why? How? It's something I'm working on.

Without conflict, there is no story. In some stories, the conflict is obvious. Look at The Hunger Games. A girl's little sister is chosen for a reality show where teenagers fight to the death, so said girl volunteers in her sisters place. She then spends the majority of the novel trying to stay alive. In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg must save her father. In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo must destroy the One Ring. In Harry Potter, a boy must take down the Dark Lord. What would any of these books been without the conflict?

Katniss hunts in the woods.
Meg sulks in the back of a classroom.
Frodo eats six meals a day.
Harry lives under a cupboard.

Exciting, right?

And yet, when writing, I really love exploring some mundane aspects of life. But mostly I love character development, how a character slowly grows and changes. And sometimes, I forget the plot and instead Arthur spends 100,000 words in Copperton getting to know the family he never knew he had. (That's right, Meredith--an Alloquor reference.) To me, its riveting to see how Arthur deals with the fact that he has an extended family, it helps with his healing process over his brother's death...but there is no plot.

It's said that in a novel every sentence should be character development or plot development. Unfortunately, my novels tend to be 75% character development and 25% plot development.

So I really have no helpful hints or pointers on developing plot. My plots get better with each revision of the novel. I'm slowly making my novel more plot heavy (which is especially important in MG).

If any of my readers have tips on how to think of great conflict/plot the first time around though, I would greatly appreciate it. How do you spice up the action of your story?


  1. Hello Bittersweet. This is a thought-provoking post and I'm wondering if maybe you are being too hard on yourself. I think that there can be conflict in character development because you are exploring layers of a person's life and there is bound to be great interest there. Not everything needs to go from A to Z. By any chance, is there some reason why you feel you have to write into this mold? Did someone tell you that you have to write stories like the Hunger Games or other examples and that there was just no room in the world for anything otherwise?

  2. Michael, no one told me my story has to fit a certain mold, but I do believe there has to be a balance between both plot development and character development and that I haven't mastered that balance. In Middle Grade books, which my current project is, being exciting and having a good plot is very important. In general middle schoolers don't like "boring" books. I realize there are exceptions to that (I was one of them, back in the day), but there still has to be some action driving the story.

    It all comes down to pacing I suppose, and I have yet to master that.