Characters Need Conflict
We torture them, make them fall off cliffs – it’s all part of an exciting plot. So wouldn’t it seem like your character running for their life would be the best conflict you can get? Nope!
Life-or-death is not the type of struggle that will resonate most with your readers. It is not the struggle that will keep them turning pages. This comes as a surprise to many authors, but it’s true.
Here’s the reason why – there is nothing in a life-or-death struggle that actually ties to the character. Anyone can be facing a life threatening situation. It has nothing to do with the character’s inner self, and there’s no growth that comes of it. The character leaves from the fire, they barely survive. It’s exciting, but the character hasn’t changed.
What is the Most Important Conflict?
For a struggle to be truly riveting, to be emotionally powerful to your readers, it has to impact the character’s inner self. Readers want to be caught up in your characters. They want to relate to them, to feel like they’re real people. The best way to do this is to give your character an internal struggle. Everyone goes through inner turmoil, so when a character does, we relate.
You see the difference between that and a character who just fights for their life?
When your character struggles to overcome their flaws or something from their past that’s holding them back, that is the most important struggle they can have. Whenever your character’s goals are inhibited by something within themselves that the character has to overcome, that is when your readers will cheer.
Let’s look at an example of this in The Hunger Games. The life or death situation is an integral part of the plot. But Katniss’ struggle in being able to love Peeta – that is what kept us reading. The question of whether she will be able to put aside all of her inhibitions to pretend to love Peeta, when he really does love her, is the struggle that we were most interested in. That was the struggle that added complexity to her character and made her feel real.
So, yes, life-and-death struggles are important for your plot, but character struggles are what will make your book stand out.
What are your ideas? What struggles do you make your characters face? Let us know in the comments!
Also, pop on over to aliventures.com to read my guest post – “Four Ways to Fall in Love with Writing (Again)”.