vehicle Passenger 57— a good novel needs to have conflict. My novel,
for example, has so much conflict that my thesis advisor actually
wants me to call it either Conflict(ed) or Hot Damn!!: A Novel. But
today we’re focusing on you. And if you’re reading this, you’re more
than likely writing a novel, or at least a thinly veiled memoir. So
DVR “The View”, sit down and answer these two simple questions and
let’s find out if your novels got beef.
1. Which description most aptly describes your antagonist’s
relationship with your protagonist?
A. My protagonist Casey likes Romantic Comedies whereas my antagonist
Drew only kind of likes Romantic Comedies.
B. My protagonist is a 15 year old boy named Casey interested in
seeing an R rated Romantic Comedy starring Michael Cera, but standing in his way is the ticket
collector, a 17 year old boy named Drew who’s a stickler for the
rules. It’s kind of a short book.
C. My protagonist Casey wants nothing more than to write the greatest
Romantic Comedy of all time but standing in her way is the
antagonist, Drew, who has made it his life mission to preserve
Failure to Launch as the greatest romantic comedy of all time, and
will stop at nothing (Nothing!!) to keep it that way. Plus they’re
D. My protagonist Casey is at Blockbuster with his antagonist Drew.
Casey wants to get a Failure To Launch because he heard it’s the
greatest Romantic Comedy of all time. Drew kills him with a longbow.
2. In How To Write a Damn Good Novel, James N. Frey discusses the
importance of keeping your characters in a “crucible”, which he
describes as “the container that holds the character’s together as
things heat up…or the bond that keeps them in conflict with each
other”. Pick the letter that best corresponds to the crucible your
characters are in.
A. Drew dislikes Casey’s views on politics and they both live in the
same city so they could, like, totally run into each other at Trader
Joe’s and it would be awkward. The city is their crucible.
B. Drew hates Casey but Casey is his driving ed instructor. If Drew
doesn’t pass Driver’s Ed, he has to take it again, which is a total
waste of a summer. The class is their crucible.
C. Drew hates Casey but Casey is his sergeant in the army during the
Mexican-American war of 1846. And they’re forced to share a tent. And
Casey is married to his sister, Taylor, who’s a pretty good singer.
The army, marriage, and shared space are their crucibles.
D. Drew hates Casey because Casey started to walk across the street
when the Don’t Walk sign was blinking. F*ck a crucible, Drew kills
Casey with a longbow.
Mostly A’s: Um, no, this isn’t going to work. I’ve seen more conflict
on “Dora the Explorer”. In fact, go watch it.
Mostly B’s and C’s: Now we’re talking. Or maybe fighting. But in a
good way. You’ve got all the right ingredients to have a potentially
interesting and novel length conflict. And that Mexican-American war
story seems like a surefire blockbuster. You’re welcome.
Mostly D’s: Unfortunately, you’ve got a case of what the pros like to
call “jumping conflict”. Things accelerate without building up and
don’t really add up. You’re like the Jerry Springer contestant of
novel writing. Put down that longbow.
Let me know how you fare in the Comments. Have a great weekend.