Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is 'conflict' in a novel?

I need to get something off my chest here. Since I'm a published author I sent my books out to reviewers. Either to pure readers or to sites that specialise in reviews. Though I'm very lucky, certainly super relieved and proud to have received excellent reviews for both of my books, one thing left me puzzled a few times: a few reviewers of No Wings Attached mentioned that the conflict could have come earlier, one would have to read very far to get to it. With all due respect; I hasten to disagree.
The conflict is that Tom, being a non-human wish-consultant, is not allowed to fall in love with his very human client Celia. He constantly walks a thin line and she's got no clue. The ramifications for him developing emotions are unknown. I think that's a pretty huge conflict, one might beg to differ, but that's the whole concept of the book and I'm really confused how people cannot see it.

After a bit of thinking I came to the conclusion that people just misunderstand the concept of 'conflict'. It's said you have to have one in your book; many readers/writers/reviewers seem to think it means to have a big argument/fight between characters. That's certainly a form, but not what I refer to.

Here are a few examples of conflict:
  • Married women falls in love with another guy

  • Married husband develops a crush on another man, finds out he's gay.

  • Prison psychologist falls for inmate

  • Teacher falls for pupil

  • Boss falls for employee

  • Raped woman falls pregnant and wants to keep the child, others disagree

  • Very religious person falls in love with an atheist

Now the not so easy to see conflicts:
  • Woman has trust issues after abusive past

  • Boy starts to go off the rails after parents die in accident

  • Girl loses her sight and has to learn to adapt

  • Man finds out the wife is cheating he has troubles to come to terms with it

  • Main character learns about terminal illness

  • Loner meets someone and struggles with his being withdrawn, trying to break free

Fight scenes and arguments are not the conflicts any editor refers to, they are merely the results of the actual conflicts.

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