How to Deepen Conflict in Your Novel

Conflict is one of the most important parts of a novel. It is the source of the story, the way your character grows, and the element that propels the story forward.

That’s why we’ve compiled some tips for deepening conflict.

Find the wound

What happened in your character’s past that stays with them? How does it impact their decisions and create conflict in their life? Find that moment that gave them a view of the world that at once might have helped them, but now hurts them.

Create external conflict

Put blocks in the way of your character’s goal. Even a wall they need to climb can create conflict. Create some kind of block that hits right where their wound is. Maybe they witnessed someone they love drown, for example, and the block in front of them is a river.

Make characters opposed to each other

Create conflict in dialogue and craft characters with very different value systems from each other. Find a good reason why another character in your story does not want your character to achieve their goal.

When there’s no external conflict, include internal conflict

Have your character battle their personal demons. Create a conflict between their own beliefs inside them.

Define a problem

Set your story in motion with a problem. Place a new issue in your character’s life, like a job lost, a love lost, or a surprise responsibility. See how your character deals with that problem, and most important, let them fail.

Raise the stakes

Give your hero even more reasons to need to accomplish their goal. Make sure that the consequences of not achieving their goal are dire. Raise those stakes as the story goes on to keep readers engaged.

Add a ticking clock

Create time limits on goals to raise tension. Make it impossibly hard for your character to accomplish their task within that time.

Get into your antagonist’s mind

Think about how bad your antagonist wants their goal. It should be just as strong as the hero’s desire to get their goal. The antagonist should put whatever roadblocks they can in the way of the hero.

Create other conflicts in subplots

Create conflicts between family and friends in addition to the main conflict. A big benefit of this is that it can leave your main character alone, a great way to raise stakes.

Use barriers and other obstacles to keep lovers apart

Impossible romances and love against the odds will heighten conflict and deepen a character’s reason for accomplishing a goal. A love interest could also get in the way of their goal.

Partially succeed but sow doubt

Include little hints that a win isn’t really a win. Have your character accomplish something but skip the line and eventually pay for it. Make it so the villain is killed but has a way to come back. Find ways to play with your character’s hopes and emotions.

Bring your opposing characters together

If you’ve created conflicting characters, place them in the same room. See how they interact and how they both try and stop each other from achieving their goal.

s5.Get a critique group and feedback.6.Think it’s done!7.Send it to agents.8.Rejections! Turns out it needs more revision.9.Do more revision. Then more.10.Get an agent finally, hallelujah!11.Revise (Still not published.)12.Sub-club, for what seems like a hundred years.13.Write another book.14.Maybe book one gets published, maybe it doesn’t!15.Maybe it does!16.Write another book.At least, that’s approximately how it went for me. But what I will say about the process is that it’s long and only for those who intend to spend their lives writing. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about one book, or even two books, or three getting rejected or getting published. It’s about the writing. It’s about persistence in writing, about loving the reward of writing stories, and about not worrying about the publication process so much. It’s very hard notto worry sometimes, of course, but letting go of the worry to enjoy writing is really the whole point of writing.

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