Often, I find myself reading indie books and hoping all of the characters will die in a violent and painful car crash.
Because I am bored.
It took me awhile to pin down what was problematic about these books. Was it weak characterization? Slow pacing? Horrid grammar? Lackluster description?
Finally, it came to me.
The number one reason I might want all of your characters to die in a fiery ball of flaming and twisted metal?
Lack of conflict.
Definition of conflict
Conflict means to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition.
It also means to fight.
Your characters can fight anything. Their hoarding addiction. Rabid dogs. Stick waving villagers. The little old lady at the grocery store. Their mother. The mustachioed villain.
It doesn’t matter, but your characters need to struggle against something, otherwise your novel will turn into a meandering snooze fest that I will be forced to say bad things about.
Lack of conflict is the prevailing flaw in indie books
Without much professional editing it is easy for indie authors to indulge and pamper their characters—lovingly created, these characters are endlessly catered to. Like cherished pets, nothing much bad happens to them, they don’t get out much, and a little mindless yapping gets them what they want.
They really don’t struggle. At all.
No struggle equals lack of conflict and without conflict there is no drama or anticipation or suspense or tension or any of those other things that make a book interesting and good and fun to read.
Your reader has to be unsure of the outcome or else why would they care enough to turn another page?
Ideas for creating conflict*
Good conflict is the direct result of meaningful action taken to resolve a situation. Your character might not always be successful with his actions, but he should try to resolve the conflict to the best of his ability.
In order for a conflict to be believable, your character needs a worthy opponent, even if his opponent is himself. Without opposition, challenge and obstacles to goals, there is no story and resolution is easy.
Where’s the fun in that?
-Your character has to want something really, really bad. (Desire)
-Someone or something has to get in the way of what they want. (Opponent)
-The opponent shouldn’t be easy to defeat and should create roadblocks to thwart your character at every opportunity. (Obstacles)
-Your character eventually defeats the opponent, achieves their goal, and experiences some sort of personal change as result. Alternately, you character may not defeat their opponent or achieve the goal but still be changed by the outcome. Change is the important factor here. (Resolution)
And everyone lives happily ever after.
And no one makes snoring noises when they see a copy of your book.
And I won’t be forced to write negative reviews.
See? We all win.
*For the record, I don’t think all indie books are boring. Implying all indie books are boring made for a better title. Who wants to read a post titled ‘3 out of 5 indie books are boring’? Or ‘A few Indie books I read recently were boring’. So I exaggerated. Probably a lot. A more apt (but less exciting) title for this post would be “Why conflict is important”.
*This passage brought to you by some other website that I forgot to bookmark. Sorry, other writer. Feel free to claim this tip if it belongs to you.