Conflict and Tension

Most of us are looking for less conflict and tension in our lives. Just head to the nearest bookstore and check out the Self-Help section. But if you happen to be a writer (this probably pertains more to fiction), your characters NEED conflict and tension–a lot of it! If a story flows merrily along from beginning to end, there isn’t anything for your readers to invest in, no one to cheer for, and no feeling of resolution at the end. So, let’s look at some places to find conflict and tension and get them into your story.

The Natural World

Take a look outside. There are lots of things that can be beyond your character’s control: the weather (hurricanes, thunderstorms, blizzards), wild animals/reptiles/bugs, and basic geography (mountains, caves, wild rivers, deserts). Use the natural world to challenge your character. If you’re creating a fantasy world, it will need to be full of its own, unique challenges, geography, and obstacles.

Time itself doesn’t stop, so it can be a challenge and source of tension your character can’t control. Deadlines, passing months/years, and seasons all have the potential to create problems for your characters. For example, what if a promise was made by a loved one to return in the spring? Spring arrives with no word or reunion. Was it intentionally ignored? Did something happen that forced the promise to be broken? As a writer, you can increase the tension as the deadline draws near.

Other Characters

Interactions with other characters is a great place for conflict and tension to hang out, and there are different types and degrees to explore. Parent/child conflicts usually begin with the “terrible twos” and evolve with the passing years. Adult relationships are a great source, like those between adult children and their parents, siblings, romantic attachments, and sworn enemies (why?). What about that person your character thought was a trusted friend but betrayed him/her when it really counted? The one who spilled the secrets they vowed to keep? It’s a treasure trove for conflict and tension!

Inside Their Head

While your character is dealing with external elements and the people around them, they can also be having a major tug-of-war with their inner self. Did they keep promises made to themselves? To others? What about goals and dreams? Did they work to fulfill them, or were they set aside for reasons that may usher in disappointment, regret, and shame? Has the external world and the players in it changed them? How?

As a writer, you’ll want to give your characters a bit of a respite now and then from all of the push and pull going on. It benefits them, the story, and the reader. Everyone needs to catch their breath before continuing on. But continue you must, with more conflict and tension until the story finally ends.

Image credit: Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s