Saturday, 25 April 2015

Too Much v. Too Little Description – Part 1

I’ve written about this subject before, back in 2011, but it still seems to endlessly confuse writers on what is deemed the right amount of description in a novel, particularly when the writer needs to get a lot of information across to the reader without destroying the fabric of the story or leaving the reader deflated with the lack of detail. 
But getting the balance right is quite a challenge.
There is a multitude of advice available where description is concerned. Some advise writers to keep things minimal, while others agree that description is a necessity and writers shouldn’t compromise pertinent details, especially as it plays an important role in embellishing the story.
There are advantages of using more description, but that doesn’t negate the use of brevity when it’s needed.
I know I’ve mentioned this before in other articles, but the holy trinity of description, narrative and dialogue falls into what is known as the Goldilocks zone – not too much, not too little, but just about right. And that’s what writers should aim for with description. It’s about finding a balance.
It has to be said that more description is sometimes preferred and at other times less description is better. There is no or wrong. It depends entirely on the scene and all its elements.
There are a lot of options available to the writer to help him or her get the balance right.
When more description is required
It’s entirely acceptable to have lengthy descriptive scenes every now and then. Certain scenes demand it because description helps the writer convey different sensations – mood, tension, atmosphere, emotion and pace. For instance, a foreboding and pensive scene in a darkened house can’t exist on a minimal description, simply because it gives absolutely nothing to the reader. They won’t be able to engage with it or visualise it.
More description is needed in these types of scenes so that the writer can show the sense of foreboding and tension and the primal fears, to make the reader almost reach in and feel the atmosphere. In other words, longer descriptions serve an important function.
At other times, different ‘action’ scenes require more descriptions in order to allow the reader to imagine they’re part of the story. 
Description provides pertinent information that would otherwise be overlooked, things like background detail and setting.
More description is also necessary when the writer needs to elaborate on certain scenes to help the reader become part of the story, to become involved on a personal level, to become absorbed by beautiful the brush strokes and visual imagery.
When it becomes a negative
Too much description can become a problem if left unchecked, since it’s so easy for writers to get carried away while writing. It can be distracting for a reader when confronted with large swathes of description that doesn’t really do anything for the story.
When less description is required
Plenty of writers erroneously believe that description should be brief and concise, no matter what. Brevity is the new buzzword. But brevity only works when description demands it, otherwise the resulting novel will simply not be worth reading because it will provide too much ‘telling’ and will ‘show’ very little.
Brief description tends to quicken the pace, so it’s very useful for strong action scenes. The writing uses shorter, staccato words to keep it taut and fast.
Brief description is also perfect for breaking up long lines of dialogue. Having the character break from speaking, followed by a brief description of something – it could be an emotion, something they notice or an action of some sort -
When it becomes a negative
Too little description at the right moment will kill the overall effect you want to achieve because you are not allowing the reader to become involved, you are not creating enough in the scene to make it interesting, and certainly a lack of description won’t move the story forward.
The wrong kinds of description
Amplification, circumlocution, purple prose...these are the kinds of description that writers should look out for.  Amplification means the writer embellishes the sentence by adding more information in the hope to increase its comprehension. Sometimes that works, but often it just creates more description than is necessary. Circumlocution means the writer creates long and overly complex sentences in order to convey a meaning that could have otherwise been conveyed through a shorter, simpler sentence structures. And everyone knows what purple prose is – description that is just too over the top and flowery and jammed with adjectives.
Another one is the info dump, where too much mind-numbing information is described that serves no purpose for the story and doesn’t move it forward in any way.
Next week we’ll look at ways to best blend description, choose what to describe and when and how to make the most of description.

Next week: Too Much v. Too Little Description Part 2

Saturday, 11 April 2015

More on Chapter and Novel Lengths

By far, this subject has proved to be the most popular among writers, so due to popular demand, it’s time to revisit this very relevant subject, which I first wrote about in 2012.

Firstly, I’m going to repeat a snippet of advice I dispensed in the first article and that is novel lengths are dictated by the story itself, not the writer or the editor or a specific written formula. Secondly, writers don’t have to fit their word count into generic set amounts. The story will dictate how long the novel will be.

But plenty of writers still fret about the length of their chapters, let alone the length of the novel. There is a worry that they might be too long or not long enough, and that perfect ‘Goldilocks’ length just seems hard to pin down, but in truth, it’s not hard at all.

It’s all down to knowing when to stop at a relevant juncture to allow the narrative to breathe and to prepare the reader for the next chapter. The easiest thing to do is to just keep going with story, to get carried away and before you know it your chapter has turned into a mammoth 7,000 words without so much as a breath.

The art of getting chapter lengths right is to write enough to keep the reader entertained, interested, invested and hooked, without the danger of them falling asleep with boredom if the chapter drags on and on. Of course, sometimes chapters can run long because the story arc demands it. But conversely, try not to make chapters too short that the reader loses interest or feels as though the narrative ‘stutters’ and makes them feel short-changed.

Vary Chapter Lengths

Variation is key to getting it right. Some chapters will be short, one or two will be long, and the rest should average out the same length. That’s why variation works so well. But the one thing they should all do is impart information, move the story along and to keep the reader enthralled.

The one thing that chapters should always do is end with a teaser in order to make the reader continue reading. Think of old black and white serials – they always ended on a cliff hanger, which meant the audience were on the edge of their seats desperate to know what happened next. Treat your chapters the same. The reader has to know what happens next, so write the end of the chapter in a way that invites them to carry on reading.

Keep chapter lengths varied - think Goldilocks...not too long, not too short, but just about right.


But what about the novel itself? Are there set novel lengths for different genres?

In truth, they are not largely different from each other. For example, science fiction novels, on the whole, don’t run as long as thriller or some crime novels. But that does not mean to say that you have to keep the word count at a rigid 80,000 words. In the end, it doesn’t matter. As long as the story is good, then there is nothing wrong with a 90,000 + word science fiction novel.

It’s worth noting that publishers and agents don't reject because of word counts, they reject work because it doesn’t fit their genre, the work is too badly written or it just doesn’t work for various reasons.

If you contrast average words counts with something like children and young adult’s fiction, the word counts can vary between 20,000 words to 45,000. Fantasy/saga novels, on the other hand, tend to be a big read – think Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

The romance genre tends to run at 70,000 words to 90,000 words (and sometimes fewer words, depending upon the publishing house). It would have to be a very captivating romance story to run beyond 100,000 words.

Average novel counts by the most common genres:-

Children’s and YA: Between 20,000 and 45,000

Fantasy/Saga: Between 80,000 and 110,000

Suspense/Thriller: Between 80,000 and 100,000

Crime/Detective or Noir: Between 80,000 and 90,000

Romance: Between 70,000 and 90,000

Erotica: Between 70,000 and 90,000

Historical: Between 80,000 and 110,000

Literary: Between 80,000 and 90,000

Science Fiction: 80,000 and 90,000

Horror: Between 80,000 and 90,000

Note that these are simple guidelines only. They are not set in stone! They represent averages.

The simple truth is that you should aim for an average word count that falls between 80,000 and 95,000 words because if it spills over 110,000 words and isn’t brilliantly written, the reader may well give up reading and find something better to do. This can happen because writers have a habit of writing far too much of the story and don’t actually know A) when to stop or B) how to edit effectively.

Seasoned writers often write more than is required – deliberately – because they know that during the editing process they will cut upwards of 15% - 25%. It’s very normal for the length of a novel to fluctuate over the entire writing and editing process, which means a book can complete at 85,000 words, swell to 95,000 words after the first few rewrites, then slim down to 90,000 words before finally ending up at 100,000 words. This is quite normal.

The drawback with many writers is that they don’t always know what to edit out and what to leave in, which means they make the fatal mistake of leaving everything in. And that’s why some novels ridiculously inflated with words.

The thing to remember is that novel lengths are not an exact science. When you plan your novel, set yourself an average word count to help guide you. Don’t worry if you go over your goal of, say, 90,000 words and end up with 100,000 words. Sometimes we just need a little bit more than we anticipated in order to edit well and tell the story effectively.

As long as the novel moves the story along, starts in the right place, has a great middle and ends at the right moment, then the finishing word count shouldn’t cause concern. Writers just have to use common sense.

So, where chapter lengths are concerned, remember the following:

  • Be concise. Don’t let it drag on.
  • Move the story along
  • End with by a tease or a statement that makes the reader want to find out more.
  • Vary lengths to keep things interesting.
For novel length, remember the following:

  • Set yourself a word target as a guide.
  • Always write a little more than the target word count to help you with editing – this helps to get rid of the waffle, info dumps, unnecessary scenes and unimportant narrative.
  • Try to stick to guidelines.
  • Remember the Goldilocks rule – not too short, not too long, but just about right.

One final note on this subject – tastes, trends and conventions change from time to time. What is trendy now may change in a few years, so read other novels that are similar to yours, check out their length and look at different publishing houses and their guidelines on various genres.

But most of all...don’t worry so much over your chapter and novel lengths!

Next week: Context – what does it do?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Fundamentals of Writing a Novel - Part 2

Continuing with the fundamentals of novel writing – those basics of any novel – we’ll take a look at a few more essentials that make up the list for authors to consider before embarking on writing a full length novel.
Part 1 looked at things like Planning, length, plot, POV, characterisation, conflict and structure, so now it’s the turn of The Beginning, Ending, Dialogue, Exposition and Balance.
The beginning/The Hook – the opening must have a good hook in order to draw the reader into the novel. If you don’t, the reader may not bother to read your story.
The hook works like a fishing hook. You dangle it in front of the reader in order to lure them. The best novels do this with great opening lines and once hooked, the beginning gets right into the action. Don’t spend three pages explaining everything to the reader before anything interesting happens. Let that interesting thing happen right at the beginning, in the first paragraph. A life changing event, significant action or, literally, you open it with a bang – whichever way you do it, grab your reader’s attention from the start and don’t let go.
Ending/resolution – The ending is just as important as the beginning. It must tie up loose ends, resolve all sub plots and story strands and it must be a satisfactory conclusion for the reader. If not, then the whole story will fall flat.
You may not always have the exact details of the ending in mind when you start your novel, and that is quite common, but at least have some idea; otherwise you could fall into the trap of creating a deus ex machina (a contrived set of coincidences that help to force the conclusion of the story).
The ending should form organically from the story. Never force it.
Dialogue basics – Too many self-published novels contain so much woefully written and badly structured dialogue that it is fundamentally clear that the writer hasn’t even learned the craft of fiction writing. Many writers don’t know a thing about dialogue tags, punctuation placement or order of dialogue to action, so it’s vital you understand the basics.
The best way to understand how dialogue structures work is read other well known, successful novels. You will see how it’s laid out, how to introduce characters when speaking, how to break up dialogue with brief description and how to punctuate correctly.
Exposition – lack of exposition, too much exposition and indirect exposition. We’re talking description. Most new writers are under the misguided impression that novels don’t need that much description – it takes up too much room and it’s boring to read.
If that’s the case, what is the point of reading a book? Without description, how does a writer expect the reader to understand what’s going on, how can they empathise with the main character, how can they immerse themselves in the story?
Like it or loathe it, a good book needs plenty of description in the right places. In other words, description is vital for those key scenes to help build a picture for the reader. For example, imagine a painting with no colour, nothing in the background, nothing in the foreground, no textures, no perspective and no shape, other than a drawn stick man. This kind of picture lacks imagination, it consists of hardly anything. It tells the observer absolutely nothing. And that’s how a book without description appears. Who would want to read something that has no substance?
Description in the right places gives the reader colour, background, foreground, textures, perspective and shape. It allows the reader to imagine themselves within that scene; it draws them in and lets them be a part of it. It’s the staple of any good book.
Indirect exposition is known as ‘show, don’t tell’. This is where action scenes, important scenes or atmospheric scenes help with tension, atmosphere and pace. This type of exposition allows the reader to share those moments.
On other occasions, the exposition can be minimal, just to allow the story to flow. This is the ‘telling’ part, the unimportant stuff that writers don’t have to show the reader and it should be brief and to the point. Writers often make the mistake of explaining far too much, when it’s not actually necessary. This is known as an ‘info dump’.
So, if the scene is important, then it demands the right depth of description to show atmosphere, tension, emotion or conflict.  Other, less important scenes will require brief descriptions here and there, just to give some colour and layers to bolster the narrative. Peripheral, transitional and low key scenes need nothing more than very brief exposition = the writer is ‘telling’.
It’s all about getting the balance right. And talking of balance...
Balance – in novel writing that means finding the right balance of everything, but most importantly it’s about the balance of dialogue, description and narrative. Get that right and the reader will enjoy the novel because it has the right amount of dialogue, the right amount of description and the right amount of narrative.
Get the balance wrong and the reader may not enjoy the book so much because the other elements are lacking or missing or there is too much of one or more of them, but finding that balance becomes easier the more you write and understand your own strengths and limitations.
Finally, learn the conventions of fiction writing and respect them. Until you become an award winning, best-selling author with millions in the bank, you should stick to guidelines; otherwise you’ll get nowhere fast. When you become successful and famous, then you can break as many rules as you want, so until then, keep to the tried and tested formula if you want success.
The best way to study all these is to read plenty of well-written books by established authors. It’s the best way to learn.

Next week: More on Novel Lengths

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Fundamentals of Novel Writing – Part 1

There are some things that every writer should get right before any thought of publication (either through self publishing or traditional). With the onset of self-publishing, especially, there is a tendency of complacency (and lack of writing ability) in so much that a writer can write however they wish, because there are no ‘rules’ to follow.
While this is indeed true, it is also misleading. There is also no quality control with self publishing, so if writers do break those ‘rules’ then the result will be a terrible, unreadable mess. Fact. That is why there are guidelines in place, to ensure a writer produces a quality written piece of fiction.
If you want to write a novel then you have to know the fundamentals. If you ignore the fundamentals, then you’re not going to achieve much as a writer.
The Fundamentals:
Planning – a little planning goes a long way. A lot of planning goes even further. The less prepared you are to embark on a novel, the more problems you will encounter. So plan your novel - sketch out the chapters, make sure all your important characters are well defined, know a rough ending and know where the story might go.
Length – have some idea of what the length your novel will be and try to stick to it. Anything less than 60,000 words will be a novella. Any more than 110,000 words will end up being a saga (and probably a huge bore for your readers). Average length novels run from 80,000 to 100,000 words.
Plot – what is the plot? What, essentially, is the story about? What is the point of the story? What will it achieve, what is it trying to say? Make sure your plot is as tight as it can be, otherwise readers will pick out the holes, the obvious plot flaws, quite easily. If your plot isn’t watertight, then the rest of the story will fail.
POV – there are certain guidelines for this, and there is good reason for it. Too many writers believe that there is nothing wrong with jumping from one POV to another, mid scene. This is not a good idea, and it’s another classic error made by beginners. And those too arrogant to want to accept any different.
The general rule for POV is that viewpoints should not shift until there is a new scene or a new chapter to introduce them.
The reason for this ‘rule’? Try reading a novel with viewpoints all over the place. It’s hard to figure out whose point of view it is and whose story is being told. It’s confusing and difficult to read. If there is no clear viewpoint and it’s not clear whose story is being told, then the story has failed on a major level.
If authors can’t get these basics right, then they have no place writing.
Characterisation – A good book always has great characters. Lack of characterisation makes for a poorly written book. Make sure your characters are interesting, dynamic, but ultimately flawed. Make the reader care about them. And make sure the reader can root for your protagonist. There’s nothing worse than a hero we all hate.
More importantly, whose story is it? Many authors make the mistake of letting secondary characters take over. The main character’s story becomes lost. This is a classic mistake made by beginners.
Conflict – where is the conflict? What kinds of conflict will it have? A story without conflict isn’t a story.
Conflict usually takes the form of good guy versus the bad guy; it is the fuel of any good story. But conflict can come from different things - the environment or surroundings; it can be internal conflict from your main character. It could be conflict between secondary characters or with companies or even authorities. Whatever the conflict, make sure it works as part of the overall story.
As with every aspect of fiction writing, don’t force it.
Structure – The importance of structure shouldn’t be overlooked. But what exactly is structure?
When we talk about structure, it means the construction of the novel. In other words, are the scenes set out properly (do they flow instead or do they stutter and jump from one thing to another?). Is the dialogue structured properly? Are the chapters clear? Are POVs correctly done? Does the whole thing move the story forward in a logical manner? Do you have a tight plot in place, with clear subplots and themes to underscore the story?
Above all, does your story make sense?
All these things working together make up the overall structure of a novel, and if one of them is lacking or flawed, then the structure isn’t working and the story won’t be as strong as you may want it.
In part 2, we’ll look at more fundamentals for writing a novel, such as the beginning and ending of the novel, dialogue structure and exposition.

Next week - Fundamentals of Novel writing – Part 2

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Writing Short Stories

How different are they from writing full length stories such as novels or novellas? 
Despite their similarities, short stories are quite different, certainly where structure and content is concerned.
Unlike novels, short stories have a limited amount of space in which to tell the story; usually around. 1000 – 10,000 words, so how the story is told is dictated by its length. In contrast to novels, there is a lot to cram into the short story, without it feeling too cluttered, rushed or contrived.
There are no hard and fast rules where short stories are concerned, but there are certain aspects writers should consider and a number of things they should pay attention to, especially as there is a limited amount of words to work with. That doesn’t mean writers have to be so economical with words to the point that description suffers and falls prey to ‘telling’, rather than ‘showing’ but instead it means writers have to be very careful about which scenes require more description and which scenes don’t, because even short stories need adequate description and imagery to help make them more believable.
What does a short story need?
From the outset, your short story must identify whose story it is and what the central point of the story is. If you have only 1000 words in which to tell that story, then it’s vital you engage the reader from the very first word. That means introducing the main character immediately and letting the reader know what the situation is within the first two paragraphs.
It’s important that the reader understands the story from the opening lines. Establish the time, the place and the action (the Greek Unities) as early as possible. It makes life easier for the reader and for the writer.
Get the POV right before you start. Whether it’s first person (popular with short story writing) or third person, make sure you’re comfortable with it – and stick with it – otherwise you’ll end up doing more work in the long run to correct a POV that just doesn’t work.
Just like the novel, a short story needs a great beginning, an interesting middle and a satisfactory end, which is no mean feat when you don’t have many words to do it. Not only that, but the story must make sense. There is nothing worse than a short story that doesn’t have a theme and then wanders off the beaten track and doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say.
It also needs a significant starting point. Jump straight in right at a pivotal moment that something affects your main character. Short stories don’t have the luxury of lots of exposition, so it’s important to establish the defining opening scene because that then sets the tone for the rest of the story.
Don’t skimp on tension, atmosphere, emotion and conflict. Just because short stories are short in length doesn’t mean that writers should overlook some very vital ingredients. It might seem a lot to fit in, but it can be done. It just means that every word and sentence is precious, so make each one count.
Don’t complicate the story with too many characters; otherwise it will be hard for the reader to follow them. The fewer the characters in the story, the less likelihood there is for complication. Fewer characters make for a better story because it makes the narrative tighter and allows the writer to concentrate fully on those characters. It will also prove easier for the reader to follow and much easier for the writer to establish immediacy with the reader.
The short story structure is less complex than the novel because there are fewer themes and almost no subplots (that just takes up valuable wordage). All the aspects of a novel can be found in a short story, but they are considerably pared down, like a miniature novel.
Why do some short stories fail?
1. The writer has used too many characters, so it becomes too confusing for the reader to follow who is doing what and when.
2. The writer has failed to let the reader know the time, the place or action and simply blunders on regardless.
3. The story hasn’t opened at the most crucial point in the character’s life and instead it rambles on before anything interesting happens.
4. It hasn’t set any scene or revealed what is at the heart of the story.
5. It doesn’t have a very good beginning, with a muddled middle and a poor ending that gives no answers.
6. There is no central theme.
7. The writer just hasn’t thought it through.
Some people can write short stories with ease, but find novels more complex, while novelists find it bothersome to contain a whole story in 1000 – 10,000 words. Others can do both.
The best way to understand how short stories are structured and how they work, however, is to read as many as possible. The more you read, the more you will learn.

Next week: The Fundamentals of Novel Writing

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Primary Causes of Character Conflict – Part 2

Part 1 looked at some of the main causes of character conflict, the kind of things that give our characters motivations, things that make them act and behave in certain ways which raise the tension and keep the reader interested - such as love and hate, the need for a character to reach his or her goal, desire, the good guy versus the bad guy effect, making choices and facing dilemmas.
In this concluding part, we’ll look at a few more causes, ones that we don’t always readily give a second thought to, but they are important ones nonetheless, because they are elements that can cause conflict, and where there is conflict there is tension and emotion, the very substance of stories that readers love.
Ignorance might not seem an obvious choice of the cause of character conflict, but characters, like people in real life, have a tendency, and a great capacity, to be ignorant of a lot of things, and when someone doesn’t see the truth or refuses to believe something or someone, that’s when the trouble starts.
Characters who are ignorant of the things that are happening around them will always attract conflict, because there will always be other characters desperately trying to change their opinion or outlook. This kind of external conflict can exist between one of more characters.
Look at it this way - what if your main character can’t accept something, despite everyone else telling him differently? In real life we are all probably guilty of that at some point in our lives, and that goes for your readers, too. They will know this feeling, so this kind of conflict will certainly resonate with them, because they understand the emotions going on with the all the characters, they will relate to this type of conflict.
Another one is prejudice. This is something that we all fall prey to, in one form or another. It’s human nature to prejudge. No one is perfect, and your characters, with all their imperfections and flaws, should be no different.
When we prejudge, we make our own assumptions about something or someone – more often they are unfounded and completely wrong. And that’s the kind of prejudice that causes conflict – characters being treated in a different way because of who they are, who they are with and what they do, or they are treated differently because of their skin colour, their gender, their looks, beliefs or their sexuality.
Some of the best novels contain characters fundamentally weakened by prejudice – think To Kill a Mockingbird, Driving Miss Daisy, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or The Human Stain.
And so to our final primary cause of conflict...fear. Good old-fashioned fear of the unknown always causes conflict because ultimately we fear what we do not know or understand.
It’s also closely linked with prejudice and ignorance, since fear, prejudice and ignorance go hand in hand.
Again, it’s human nature to fear something we’re not quite sure of. And those fears don’t have to be external. They can be internal fears – fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of making a fool of oneself. All these fears lead to a heightened sense of emotion, and that can lead to friction with other characters, especially if they don’t really understand what your main character is thinking or feeling.
In real life we have encountered many of these fears, so we know what kind of tensions and conflicts it can cause to those around us. Fear is a powerful reactionary emotion and one of the strongest emotions used in literature. And because it’s so powerful, it causes a great deal of conflict.
Whatever the reasons behind it, characters love to fight and disagree and argue – it’s what makes an interesting story. But next time to you sit down and create a story, think about the very reasons why your characters act the way they do, and the very real causes of character conflict.
Next week: Writing Short Stories

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Primary Causes of Character Conflict – Part 1

No story is without conflict. It’s a driving force not only for the plot but also for the characters. It makes characters do things they wouldn’t normally do. It makes them behave in ways they wouldn’t normally behave.
But to understand why characters react to conflict this way, writers should learn the fundamental primary causes of character conflict and why they’re so important in fiction writing, the kinds of reasons that universally make sense and provide the catalyst to create such tension and conflict.
You have the characters, you have the plot layout, you have a rough idea of the ending, you have scenes plotted and prospective subplots, but your novel lacks the tension and the conflict, so you might wonder: exactly what kind of conflict do I create for my characters?
That depends on the plot, other characters and the surroundings, because there are certain types of conflict to help writers:
Man v Man – This is external conflict
Man v Himself – This is internal conflict.
Man v Nature – This is external conflict.
The most important thing for any story is that the main character wants something, but he or she is somehow being prevented from getting it. Think how you feel if you couldn’t reach your goal? Think of the frustration and anger and disappointment this would create because your goal is in reach but you are thwarted at every turn. This is external conflict.
Another cause of any conflict is good old fashioned love and hate. Characters love to hate each other just as much as they love to love each other. Characters who don’t agree – even best friends - will clash, thus providing lots of different tension and varied conflicts. This is also external conflict.
Another cause is desire, which covers a large spectrum of emotions. Desire is falls under this type of cause, because sometimes what we desire isn’t always what we get. It’s not just desire of another person, but sometimes it’s the desire of a special object or place, or the desire to achieve something. The desire can be obvious or it could be profound. It really doesn’t matter, because the true conflict comes when the character’s desires are not fulfilled, which causes internal conflict.
Let’s not forget another primary cause – the antagonist versus the protagonist, or sometimes known as ‘good versus evil’. Every story will have a protagonist (the hero) and the antagonist (the bad guy) who will clash throughout the story, each time growing in intensity until it culminates in the final showdown or ‘end game’ where the hero might win the day.  Or he might not. This is another example of external conflict.
Here’s another one to consider: Imagine being faced with many choices – what do you do? What path do you take? What might happen? Will you make the right choice? Choices make for good conflict because there is always the danger that your main character will make the wrong choice, which will result in danger and tension and lots of conflict.
Most stories will involve the character making important choices; whether right or wrong. This is internal conflict.
Similar to choices, another primary cause of conflict is the dilemma. No one likes to be faced with a dilemma, but unlike choices, which can be right or wrong, the dilemma forces the character to make a choice between two bad outcomes. In other words, there is never a right choice. But the decision behind whichever the choice the character decides on will be full of conflict and tension. This would take the form of internal conflict.
Think about the states of conflict we create for ourselves in everyday life – the emotional conflict, dramatic conflict and sometimes physical conflict. Somehow we resolve them in our own way. Sometimes it’s a good outcome, sometimes it isn’t, but nevertheless we are forced to behave in certain ways, we lash out, we react badly or irrationally, we act hastily.
Sometimes we do things we regret. And that’s because such conflicts awaken our instinctive desire to act and react.
In the concluding part of this look at primary causes of character conflict, we’ll look at some other familiar causes of conflict, which are important to any story.

Next week: The Primary Causes of Character Conflict – Part 2