How Soup Added Conflict to a Relationship

Conflict on Every Page

Literary Agent, Donald Maass preaches the necessity of “conflict on every page.” I’m revising a scene today and realized I was being lazy. Exchange isn’t Enough. In this scene, a daughter comes home and reports on events of the day to her father. There was a short exchange, seven snippets of dialogue between the two. I realized it was just straight reporting, no conflict.

To find conflict, I looked first to the relationship and then to the setting. It’s a father-daughter relationship and I’ve been trying to enrich the relationship with some tender moments. But I also realized that I didn’t have enough conflict between them. What do fathers and teenage daughters fuss about? In the setting, they are eating dinner together.

I finally settled on the daughter’s lack of manners, slurping soup. It reinforces the general idea that she’s a tomboy, raised by a widowed father and a negligent nanny, raised wild and definitely without table manners. But I also made the father slightly greedy: food is fairly scarce and he wants her bowl of soup.

Richer Scene. With that idea in mind, I went back and rewrote the scene. I still had the same exchange of information, the report on the events of the day. But now, the ongoing relationship supplied the conflict and tension. We know more about each character, about their relationship, AND the day’s events. Much richer scene.

I must remember: don’t be lazy. Find the conflict in every scene.

3 responses to “How Soup Added Conflict to a Relationship”

  1. I read his workbook while doing the revisions for my first book, and it was enormously helpful. For my books I’d been thinking Maass recommended a conflict on every spread — but you’re right, conflict on every page is better for a novel. :::filing that thought:::
    Looking forward to seeing you at the conference next week. :)

  2. Great point. I’ll have to be sure to look for that as I revise. Can’t wait to see you next week at the conference.

  3. This post made me rethink the conflict in my (now) former WIP and I ended up coming up with a better idea and scrapping what I’d written. 40,000+ and a few months. I’m so glad I didn’t release something that was lesser. Thank you!