A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why Can't I Create Conflict?

I understand if the title throws you. Most people want to avoid conflict. In writing however, we have to create various levels of conflict. It's what helps propel our story along (among other things).

You can imagine then, my frustration at not being able to create the final conflict for my MC. Twice now I've been writing along, setting things up to put my MC in a do-or-die situation with the antagonist...and everything goes awry. It's almost as if my subconscious is trying to keep my poor MC from having to deal directly with the conflict.

As I sit here reasoning this out, I'm left wondering if my initial impressions of my MC are completely wrong. Perhaps he is not the brave, jump-into-the-action hero type. Maybe he is trying to speak out to me and say, "Hey, you trying to kill me or something? I know we have to fix this situation, but do I have to take of it personally?"

This train of thought leads me into the realm of characterization. I don't know about the rest of you, but I rarely know all the in's and out's of my characters. I usually discover their individual traits as the story goes along. The question that this particular situation leads me to is whether I should morph the character to fit what I need or adapt the story to fit around the character? After all, if I adjust the character now, I will very likely have to go back in other parts of the story and alter how they react in other situations as well.

I suppose with each revision, every character morphs a little bit, solidifying into a more concrete and identifiable character. The tightrope I'm walking here though is how to keep the core qualities of this character intact as I complete the tale.

Have you ever had a character act in ways that you thought were "out-of-character"? Do you reign them back in or alter the story?


Tere Kirkland said...

Oh, it's the final conflict, the final countdown, the eye of the tiger...

Maybe you're putting too much pressure on yourself. I'm a cheater--I figure out how the book will end before I even start writing, so I at least have a road-map to follow.

Of course, my characters evolve as I write them, so sometimes the plans I have for them don't make sense by the time I get to the end. I just decide to go with it and see what happens from there.

Good luck!

Sandra said...

Humm, it's hard to comment without having read your story. Does your MC think this issue is worth taking whatever risks he needs to face? Have events along the way prepared him for this final conflict? Are you so attached to him that you yourself don't want to put him in danger? (I had this problem when I first started.)

I think the character and the conflict have to suit each other. Maybe they don't match up. Or maybe your character hasn't progressed far enough along his particular development arc for this conflict.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. And to answer your question, I have had characters change on me in unexpected ways. I generally go along with whatever they decide. ;)

Nisa said...

What a conundrum. I think I would just go where the character took me. Though I have had to backtrack on minor things, but major personality? I would run with it and see where it goes. It could be fun. Even better than you imagined! And if it doesn't work out, no regrets. You can always backtrack. :)

Kat Harris said...

I get where you're coming from. I believe the character has to remain authentic in order for the story to be believable.

I also think Tere might be right. You're putting too much pressure on yourself. Step away and let the story simmer for a couple of day. Something will come to you when you least suspect it.

Erica said...

Characterization is hard! I'm having this same problem. Well, I guess we have to get to know them better huh? I guess, I would think about their goals - what is the MC's goal? What could possibly conflict with said goal... I would start there.

Good luck!