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.