Creating Conflict

Conflict is bourne out of humanity; at least, that’s what I usually think since everywhere I go, someone’s always upset. Whether it’s one person fighting to stop the bus; a student arguing with the teacher to sway their grade; two guys competing to win or lose, there’s always conflict – whenever there’s a discrepancy of ideas.

And it’s not that difficult to create. (Most of the time I think we bring it on ourselves.)

Take Robin for instance, the main character in Glasshouse, all he knows is that someone is out to kill him. And this is where the discrepancy comes to life: survival. And while a lot of authors tend to fight to kill their characters, Stross gives Robin what he wants: satisfaction.

“Think about it,” she says. “It’s a closed community running in a disconnected T-gate manifold. Nobody gets to go in or comes out after it starts running, not until the whole thing terminates. What’s more, it’s an experimental protocol. It’ll be anonymized and randomized, and the volunteers’ records will be protected by the Scholastium Experimental Ethics Service. So-“

Enlightenment dawns. “If anyone is after me ,they won’t be able to get at me unless they’re inside it from the start! And while I’m in it I’ll be invisible.” (Stross 29)

I thought this was a good change of pace. Instead of fighting to kill your characters, bring conflicts out of their choices, make them hidden behind the reflection of good ideas.

If you’re looking on how to create conflict, first come up the idea of what do they want in life. If you look at Robin’s character, you can see his history as a soldier, where now he wants peace, seclusion. He doesn’t want to keep fighting, especially when he can’t remember what he was fighting about – this just creates paranoia.

After that, create a situation where his worst fears come to life. In this case, Robin’s enemies find him, after he spends the whole novel evading them. I think this was the greatest strength: Showing the reader that Robin had failed. He was captured, mind-wiped, and there was no sense of escape. And yet your novel doesn’t have to stick to one conflict. At this point in the book, Robin’s conflict changed, and to create fluid transition with change, just reflect on it!

Hint: Usually this solves any problem with a book, whether it’s a whether it’s a questionable reaction or event, your character’s active reflection will solve it.

It’s time I stopped kidding myself that I can fight my way out of here, and time that I stopped kidding myself that they’re going to let me go in (I checked the calendar) another ninety-four megaseconds…I’ve for a stark choice. I can conform like everyone else…Or I can try to find out what’s really going on. (Stross 137)

Even though the point of the novel has one motif in mind: survival, it can have multiple streams of conflict starting and stopping. Because your book is a fluid transcription of Robin’s life, you’re allowed to start/stop multiple conflicts, ever increasing the amount of complications.

I think the main idea to take away from Glasshouse is that you don’t always have to force a conflict on your characters; most of the time, we do plenty good making the conflict for ourselves.

Stross, C. Glasshouse. New York, NY: Ace, 2006. Print.


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