Friday, February 10, 2012

Creating Good Conflict Scenes In Your Story

No one likes boring conflict scenes. I mean, a boring anything scene is bad enough, but, by definition, conflict scenes need to be interesting. Since, as we all know, I'm very fond of checklists, I have created two checklists, one for good conflict and one for bad conflict, to help you assess your scenes. (And for me to assess my own.)

Good conflict involves problems that are:
  • external
  • internal
  • significant
  • pressing
  • ones that force your characters to act
  • informative

Bad conflict involves problems that:
  • are shallow
  • can't relate back/ahead to other parts of the story
  • don't move the story forward
  • don't teach us about the characters
  • have obscure or entirely too simple/obvious solutions that leave the reader confused or aggravate

Typically, your scene should start as close to the start of the conflict as possible and pick up pace, then peak closer to the end, leaving room for resolution.

In his book Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern calls scenes like this “Bear at the Door” scenes. As said before, there' s an external problem or trouble:  “Honey, there’s a bear at the door.”  A significant problem:  “Wow, the bear’s huge”.  A pressing problem: “I think the bear’s trying to get in.”  And one that forces character(s) to act:  “Do something!”

What are your strengths and weaknesses with conflict develop? Any tips you want to share?

<3 Gina Blechman


  1. That's a cute way to think of it with the bears. I try to remember every scene must keep moving toward the main story problem. :)

    1. Yeah, I love the bears. lol. I think it's a great way to make it real in your head.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. This is great advice. I've been working on adding more conflict to my work recently - so it's very timely too. Thanks!

  3. Conflict is one of those things that I think I manage well, but are best left to beta-readers to either confirm or disprove this. You need a March post, Gina!