Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Conflict-conflict-conflict. If you plan to write a scene without it, stop. We avoid conflict in real life.

In fiction, conflict is the one element that has your readers turning the pages of a novel. Some authors mistakenly believe that conflict has to be physical. There are other kinds of conflict, including but not limited to emotional, psychological, a race against time, and a fight with nature. Conflict can be in-your-face action or subtle tension between characters.

Much is made of conflict, but there are a few elements to look for in your prose:

Does the conflict match your targeted genre? A Freddy Krueger-like character isn’t likely to appear in a contemporary romance. While romantic conflict can occur in any genre, if it isn’t a contemporary romance, that conflict must be a subplot.

Does the conflict build to the resolution of the story? In other words, adding a fistfight that has nothing to do with a plot or subplot, is useless. All conflict should be a natural part of the story and build to the story’s conclusion.

And speaking of building to a conclusion: while subplots can be wrapped up at various times in the story, it is not wise to start a conflict in a scene and resolve it by the end of the scene. Even the end of the chapter is too soon. Adding conflict and resolving it within the same scene or chapter begins to tire the reader. If the conflict involved in the story doesn’t sustain the whole story, an author may want to review his manuscript to see how it can be maintained or if it needs to be deleted.

Happy editing.


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