Mistake 23: Not Escalating the Conflict

Author:
Publish date:

from 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Not only must every scene in a story have conflict, but the level of conflict must continue to escalate throughout
the course of the story. Too often, writers open with a great hook to a story that only goes downhill. To keep the reader engaged, the stakes for the protagonist and antagonist must rise, leading up to the final conflict in the climactic scene.

Image placeholder title

Writers often get lost in backstory, flashbacks and memories, and dialogue, leading to an overall loss of conflict—and reader interest—as they get further into the story.

The solution: Make things grow more difficult for both the protagonist and the antagonist. Many writers forget to up the stakes for the antagonist by focusing too much on the protagonist. The protagonist and antagonist are locked in conflict, and the stakes must grow more important to both of them as the story progresses. Ask yourself what happens if each of them loses. What if your protagonist fails? What if your antagonist fails? As the book goes on, they both become more invested in what they are doing, so that failure becomes more and more unacceptable.

Another way to escalate conflict is to make what seems like a good thing turn out to be a bad thing and vice versa. This is much like real life. We’ve all had this happen to us. You win the lottery. Good thing, right? So you buy a sports car. Then you crash it and end up in a hospital. Bad thing, right? But then you meet this doctor. Marry him/her. Good thing, right? But then he/she is a serial killer. Bad thing, right? And so on.

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

There's nothing funny about learning when to use comedy and comity (OK, maybe a little humor) with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Debut author Shugri Said Salh discusses how wanting to know her mother lead her to writing her coming-of-age novel, The Last Nomad.

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

Does your manuscript need a little more definition, but you’re not sure where to begin? Try these 100 tips to give your words more power.

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson discusses how she never gave up on her story, how she worked through internal doubts, and how research lead her out of romance and into historical fiction.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Seven New Courses, Writing Prompts, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new courses, our Editorial Calendar, and more!

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson discusses how each project has its own process and the difference between writing fiction and her new memoir, Perfect Black.

From Script

Approaching Comedy from a Personal Perspective and Tapping into Your Unique Writer’s Voice (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, interviews with masters of comedy, screenwriter Tim Long ('The Simpsons') and writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat Subsequent Movie) about their collaboration on their film 'The Exchange', and filmmaker Trent O’Donnell on his new film 'Ride the Eagle' co-written with actor Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Plus, tips on how to tap into your unique voice and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not accepting feedback on your writing.

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Here are the top creativity websites as identified in the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.