Worth Fighting For

 Word count: 273    Reading time: 1-2 mins

According to Benjamin Franklin, there is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace. Fiction writers – ignore this crazy thinking! In Writing Fiction Janet Burroway advises: Conflict is the first encountered and the fundamental element of fiction, necessary because in literature, only trouble is interesting.

A good story dramatizes conflict or incompatibility between characters or forces. How interesting would the Harry Potter books have been without Draco Malfoy and his evil league of family and friends? Without the prevailing social norms of upper class Russia in the late 19th Century, would Anna Karenina’s choice to love Vronsky have mattered much at all?

No one wants to read about people doing what they should do without incident or challenges. From the moment we are born our lives are filled with tension and conflict – no one knows we’re hungry, someone steals our toys, teachers don’t like us, our lovers are unfaithful, strangers assault and insult us – and we do everything in our power to minimize those problems. But when we pick up a book we want to see someone else’s scrapes, physical or emotional. In writing parlance, those are external and internal conflicts. We want to see someone else’s struggles so we can forget about our own. Or maybe we just want to see another way of winning a war.

James Scott Bell defines plot as two dogs and one bone. How many dogs are in your story and what are they fighting over? Does the tension build as the story moves along? If not, what do you do to turn up the flame?

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Photo by: Surz01