Monday, February 13, 2012

Conflict and Balance

I read a book recently that told me that each scene in your story should be conflict ending in a crisis that leads the protagonist farther away from their ending goal. If you ask me, I think that much conflict pounding you over the head, for an entire book, would leave you exhausted by the time you finished, or if you finished. How about a little spacing in there with some breathers, so the reader can reflect on what just happened.

If you decide to kill someone off, especially someone the readers might be attached to, add a little balance by putting in a scene to remember the dead character with, maybe a flashback. Or, if you're not into flashbacks, a scene discussing him with other characters. Whatever you do, make sure you give your readers time to process a major event, then go and blow up the world.

A word about crisis: A crisis is that crucial moment when circumstances or people change, usually without warning. Each crisis becomes a turning point in the story where attitudes and the readers' perceptions will change. Each crisis should create as many questions as it answers, so the reader continues to be uncertain about where things will end. A crisis will continue to develop the story and be effective, providing we space them out. Again, we need balance.

Try writing a scene that ends in a crisis and see where it leads you. Does it demand that you follow it with another scene and crisis? If so, is it because it's a build up to a major event? Remember, even after your major event your readers will need to clear their heads. Turning the page to find a new crisis might just pound them over the head. But, depending on your subject, maybe your readers want continual explosions. Maybe they are adrenalin junkies! If not, think about adding those breathing points. If you don't like it, there's always the delete button.

"Let him who would move the world first move himself." ~~~ Socrates


  1. In art, they always tell you to leave a "calm" place for the eye to rest amidst the rest of the active design. How interesting that it's that way in writing, too!

  2. I am amazed at how art and writing parallel each other in so many ways. Your insights always leave me with my mouth hanging open and speechless. I appreciate your delving into the world of art to see how much they are so similar. Thanks!

  3. Seriously? Every sentence? I think that's a bit overkill. Depends on what you're writing though. There have to be lulls now and then so everyone can catch their breath and process. Process is crucial, too.

  4. M Pax: Process is absolutely important and I think it happens when the reader has room to breathe. Otherwise, without that room, they miss what you're trying to tell them. Thanks for your input!

  5. Hello Karen. I just wanted to stop by and say Hi. I've been reading a lot of your blog posts about writing and they're very helpful. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you soon. Good luck on your current writing project! ^^ :)