Today’s reblog comes from K. M. Weiland over at Helping Writers Become Authors. She covers why a lack of conflict leads to an ineffective scene and then goes on to tell you what you can do to fix a no-conflict scene with basic tips on scene structure that can makeover your entire novel.
I slapped the FedEx guy this morning.
Okay, not really. My FedEx guy is totally cool. And he brings me cool stuff. I’d never slap him. But that got your attention, didn’t it? Way more so than if I ‘d said, “I thanked the FedEx guy this morning.”
The difference between the two accounts, of course, is conflict. You may not have thought well of me for slapping that poor, undeserving FedEx guy, but I guarantee you would have been interested! Conflict isn’t nice, but it’s inevitably interesting.
And yet writers sometimes create scenes in which there is no interpersonal conflict between their characters. The result, of course, is that everyone’s happy. Except for the readers–who are bored out of their minds.
How to Bore Your Readers With No Interpersonal Conflict
Here’s what your story looks like with no interpersonal conflict:
Geraldine walked down the road to the Averils’ house. The scent of jasmine wafted all around her as she entered the yard through the trellised lych-gate.
Percival’s sister Cordelia answered the door. She looked fetchingly splendid in a new dress of lavender organdy. She beamed. “Gerry, darling! You’ve come for tea after all. Percival will be pleased. Mama too.”
Percival was going to ask Geraldine to marry him today, she just knew it.
Overcome, she flung her arms around Cordelia. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”
Now just assume this scene keeps playing out without a hint of irony. Geraldine and Cordelia have a simply wonderful teatime with Cordelia’s simply wonderful brother Percival, who has a simply wonderful proposal in mind, after which he and Geraldine can ride off into a simply wonderful HEA.
James Scott Bell calls this the problem of “happy people in happy land.” Believe me, I totally get why someone would want to write this. It’s happy. All the characters are friends. They get along. They smile, they wave. There’s no violence, no dissension, no fear, no sadness.
Heavenly it may be, but interesting–or realistic–it ain’t.…