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Mistake 32: Failing to Create Substantial Conflict

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

Why this is a mistake: Without conflict, the reader doesn’t care. It’s that simple. While we may smile at the image of the happy
couple sitting on the park bench holding hands, our attention will quickly wander away from them. They won’t engage us. Every scene of a novel, every short story, even every article must have drama,
and drama revolves around conflict. And what does conflict revolve
around?

The solution:
There are essentially three types of conflict: inner, which is inside of a person; personal, which is between people; and universal, which is a person battling the system, the government, the world, the gods.

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Define your scenes by Character A versus Character B. If you can’t do that, “Houston, we have a problem.” Conflict doesn’t have to be especially violent or significant. It can be as simple as two characters disagreeing over what color paint to select for their bedroom. But that conflict can then be symbolic of deeper conflict in the relationship. Always consider layers to your conflict.

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Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Memoir/Personal Essay First Place Winner: "Passion’s War"

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