Conflict in Minor Characters

Okay y'all, this is going to be a quick post.  My dear, beloved son is in the hospital and life has gotten a bit askew the last few days.  He is battling an infection from a cat bite and it's been a wee bit scary, I must say–red streaks up the arm and all that.  Its a persistent infection, too.  He's been in since the early hours of Sunday morning and probably won't go home until tomorrow.  

But this writing tip has been on my mind…

I talked a couple weeks ago about conflict and the importance of including it in every scene and on every page.  This is something we all know, right?  But knowing it and doing it are not one and the same.  So I've been looking at how established authors create conflict in their writing.  (Let me just take this moment to put in a plug for reading.  It is the BEST way to learn more about writing.  Read, read, read.  When I meet someone who wants to write a book but they don't read I'm shocked.  More like stunned.  Because why do you want to write if you're not reading?)

So here's what I've really been noticing: the good authors give every character conflict.  For instance, I'm reading a mystery by a Swedish author and in it the main character talks on the phone to her sister.  Its a low-tension scene.  But the main character's sister talks about how exhausted she is, and how she had to get up with the kids the night before and how her deadbeat, arrogant husband can never deign to get up with them.  Conflict.  In an otherwise low-tension scene.

This can generally be done fairly easily and often in dialogue or implied.  In other words, you don't have to go back and reinvent the wheel or the scene in order to make this work. 

Have you used this technique in your writing? Have you noticed it used in books you've read?

*Forgive the absence of a photo, I don't have time to find one.  I'm off to take my son a Frappucino.

4 Responses to Conflict in Minor Characters

  1. Zan Marie 10/04/2011 at 12:22 #

    My prayers are with your son and you. I loathe hosiptals.

    Confict it good. I just wrote a scene for an exercise at the Forum and I realize that all four of the characters mentioned have some conflict. I must have done it right. ; )

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/04/2011 at 15:23 #

    I agree, I loathe hospitals, too. Thanks for prayers, I think he’s going to be okay ultimately once he gets through this.

    And yay for getting the conflict right on that story!

  3. J.D. 10/05/2011 at 04:38 #

    Charlotte, I hate that your son has taken ill. I hope he gets out as you said. Hopefully, he has turned for the best and only needs to heal now. Your post is great. To paraphrase Gilda Radner: Everybody wants something.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 10/05/2011 at 15:49 #

    Thanks so much, J.D. I’m about to update the post on Lewis’s condition–he’s doing well, thanks in large part to so many good thoughts and prayers we’ve received. And your paraphrase of Gilda Radner made me laugh.

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