Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magic of Conflict & Suspense

Writing has been a mammoth journey for this thankful author. Begun as a way to overcome grief and live within a story, it has come to mean so much more. It’s meant new friendships, new opportunities and a chance to learn so much for which I will be forever grateful. Today I want to discuss the topic of conflict and suspense.

To quote James Scott Bell, the author of the book very practical and well written book, Conflict and Suspense: “Fiction is not reality! Fiction is the stylized rendition of reality for an emotional effect.” He goes on to explain how to bring the type(s) of conflict and suspense to a novel that will keep readers turning the pages; the necessary outcome for any writer who wants readership. Because as so many authors have put it in one way or another, reality is boring, it’s not drama and has to be avoided at all costs. As Hitchcock’s axiom holds true that a great story is life with all the dull parts removed. Life can be boring written word-for-word, fiction should not be.

And how to keep the boring bits out? Frustration is key. As Julie Eberhart Painter recently reminded me in Murphy’s Law, “Everything that can go wrong, should go wrong.” By turning the character back from what he or she wants or expects you add the dynamic to every scene.

Of course, the crux of your story is confrontation between the hero or lead and the force or forces that oppose them. One great example is Randle Patrick Murphy versus Nurse Ratched in One Few Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

And what is great conflict without great characters. Your characters need grit, wit and it (magnetism) to have staying power. They must emotionally resonate with your readers. Give them unusual quirky qualities if you want them remembered. Remember, no human is perfect. Far from it!

In a way a novel is about death for the best dramatic effect. Real imminent death or professional death or in the case of most romance novels, psychological death. This is what resonates with your fellow humans. Next month, in part two, I will go into these three types of death in more detail. If you’re anything like me, you like your information in chewable bites.

Happy writing!


January Bain
The Forever Series
Champagne Books


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thanks for the mention.

I see trouble around every corner now that I'm an author -- not such a great trait at the dentist's office.

January Bain said...

Julie, it's one of the things that has made knowing you so interesting. Thanks for the input with the blog and with life! You do more good than you know.

Big Mike said...

I'll add one thing to your reasons for writing, to fill every second of your day. I'm on a writing hiatus and getting bored as heck.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

At a recent writing workshop one of the facilitators (an experienced middle-grade author) told us "the stakes for your main character are always death" - then went on to add the types of death you mention in your preview of coming attractions. So... can hardly wait for that post, too!


January Bain said...

Mike, got to get back to writing buddy! Thanks, Liz for commenting. I've been reading a lot about the writing process and it's fascinating. Some things I've done instinctively, other ideas have been novel and I can't wait to tackle them! Best, January

Big Mike said...

Deer season, Liz. for the next month my world is sitting in trees most of the day. In Dec I'll start up again. Don't know how many more years this old body can take the punishment.