The central conflict is what drives a story forward. Without that, you have a vignette, maybe a very long vignette, but not a story. I learned this 0ne the hard way. I learned it with the second book I wrote after I got serious about writing. (We’re not counting that thing under the bed I wrote in college, all right?)
I wrote roughly 100,000 words and, literally as I was writing the last page, I looked up and realized that it didn’t come out to a story. I had characters and a setting and things happened, but I knew instinctively that it didn’t come out to be a story. I’m ashamed to admit how many different things I tried to fix before I realized the real problem. It didn’t have a strong central conflict that unified all those things that happened to my characters and made the final resolution feel like, well, like a resolution.
Lesson learned. I’m willing to plunge into a project, particularly a shorter project, and discover the story as I go. But I won’t start anything until I feel I have a handle on the central conflict.
I’ve mentioned before that my current project, working title MAGIC AND POWER, has surprised me more than once. The first surprise was when it decided to grow from an intended novelette or maybe novella into a full-fledged novel. It’s currently at almost 58,000 words and I project 65,000 to 70,000 when I reach the end of the first draft. (It’ll grow a bit more in second and third draft. They always do as I flesh out descriptions and give more attention to the secondary characters.)
Why this is a problem and how it relates to the title of this post is this: the original conflict for a nice little novelette can’t sustain a novel. I’ve had to work in a bigger conflict and allow the original to become a subplot. Unsurprisingly, this is something that’s going to need a lot more attention in the next draft. It’s sort of a hodge podge right now. But it has to be done for the whole thing to come together.
The irony of this situation is that I took up this story at this time (intending it to be much shorter) as a way to keep the writing muscles flexed while I try to work on the central conflict of what I intended to be my next novel. The best laid plans of mice and men . . .
Don’t forget, FIRE AND EARTH is now available just about everywhere.
And, as always, new chapter of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available free on wattpad. (Although, if you like the stories, you can read them much faster then two chapters a week if you buy a copy.)