NaNo Prep: How Understanding Conflict Will Make Your Plot Explode
November is almost upon us, and in the build up to NaNo, we’ve asked for guest contributors to share their advice on how to craft great stories that will engage writer and reader alike. Today, author Cari Noga tells us why “GMC” should be in everyone’s vocabulary, and how it’ll help drive your plot.
Fiction is conflict.
You’ve probably heard something like that before, and filed it away with other writing advice. Take it out, shake it off, and prop it up it next to your coffee mug. Besides caffeine, you won’t find a better buddy on your NaNo odyssey.
First—a definition. Conflict is the obstacle(s) between a character and his or her desire. It varies with novel genre: the enemy agent out to kill the hero; Mom’s new job that forces the middle-school kid to move and change schools; the character’s yearning to spurn expectations and do what she really wants. Conflict is fundamental to advancing plot, setting it back, twisting and turning it, as the characters wrestle with their particular nemeses. It’s also crucial to reader engagement.
In the best stories, we become invested in a character overcoming their conflict. We root for them to get what they want, worry when they seem to succumb, and, above all, keep turning pages to see which way it goes. Steven James, one of my favorite writing coaches and a bestselling thriller author himself, puts it this way: You don’t have a story until something goes wrong.