Mini-Conflicts Among Characters

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In my WIP, I’m looking for mini-conflicts among characters. I want to keep the tension high throughout. Donald Maass, agent and author of Write the Breakout Novel, says, “Tension on every page.”

Ongoing Conflicts. These mini-conflicts are the stuff of everyday life:

  • The ongoing battle between teacher/student over chewing gum.
  • The ongoing battle between brother/sister over hanging up towels in the bathroom.
  • The irritation of being the only one in the household to notice that the trash needs to be taken out.

You should give these conflicts only a tiny fraction of space, but they will repay you in big ways as they make the character, setting and plot more concrete and realistic.

Scene beats. Mini-conflicts might just be the tiny beats of a scene. It’s the small actions, dialogue, reactions, movements that are required for a character to physically move in space and interact with other people and his/her environment. You can build in min-conflicts in something as simple as making a cup of coffee. The tap water is too hot/cold; the coffee grounds spill; all the coffee cups are dirty; the sugar bowl is empty and the creamer is sour.

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2 Comments
  • Catie Rhodes
    June 3, 2011

    These are some really cool ideas. I’m going to check my WIP for draggy places and see if I can add some stuff like this in.

    Here’s a question (or perhaps a future blog post):

    What are scene beats? (I have a vague idea, but I’ve never had it explained in a way that clicked for me.)

  • Darcy Pattison
    June 3, 2011

    Sure, I’ll do a post about them next week. : )
    Darcy