Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conflict/Tension ~ Balance

Lori's review the other day got me thinking about conflict & tension in the books we read/write. As a writer I know that every good book needs conflict in order to keep a story moving. We are taught that every character needs a goal, motivation to obtain that goal, and conflict that gets in the way of obtaining the goal.

As a reader we like the tension that conflict in a story provides, even if we don't consciously think about why we like it or what the author is doing to keep us riveted to the page.

I used to attend a women's Bible study led a good friend of mine who taught us all kinds of things from the very Martha (practical) to the very Mary (spiritual). We all agreed that spiritual things are practical ~ so no hate mail. lol The thing I remember most about her sessions is that we would always get around to the principle of "balance."

For example ~

It is good to clean and organize your house, and she shared tips on how to do this more effectively ~ but if you let cleaning your house become your priority instead of your relationship with God and your family... you are out of balance. You have missed what is better.

It is good to want to look pretty for your spouse and there is nothing wrong with "cleaning up" and sprucing up to try and impress him/her ~ but if you become vain and care only about how you look and what kind of impression you make on others... you are out of balance.

You really can do the whole balance idea with just about anything. I remember we would get to that point in the study and one of us would say, "It's the whole balance thing, isn't it?" Everyone would groan and/or smile. Of course it is.

Balance is necessary with conflict too. That's what I meant when I was talking with Lori about conflict with one of the reviews she shared. We need the books we read to engage us and tug at our hearts. We need to want to pull for them. In order to have that need - they have to be going through something... fighting something... overcoming. If not, what's the point? On the other hand.... Let's say this happens...

If an author takes your hero and in scene one you meet him and like him. He's a nice guy with a good job, close relationship to his mother, has a neat cat that does tricks and just met a really pretty girl - and suddenly he's in a terrible car accident with his new girlfriend; you want them to recover, right? You think this book will be about them overcoming and recovering from the car accident. Then - the very next scene a nurse comes in and puts a strange liquid in the IV and your character begins to convulse in the bed... someone has tried to kill him!

Let's say he survives that and the police show up and start and the investigation and post guards at the door. One of the guards has to go to the bathroom and the other falls asleep and yet another attempt is made - this time with a pillow. Your hero fights with the person, scratching their arm... and the police come in and arrest the villain only to find out it's just a hired killer who promptly commits suicide.

Then your hero is released and finds out the new girlfriend died in the crash, his mom died today and his cat ran away. So he has nobody to comfort him. He isn't allowed to travel to the funeral because of the investigation - and his boss fired him because he didn't show up for work - you know, when he was in the hospital because he was hit by a car. The landlord has decided to raise the rent, and without a job, our hero will be out on the streets if he can't come up with the money in two days. He walks down to the ATM to get some cash so he can at least get some dinner and finds that all his accounts have been emptied. Someone accessed his information and took every last penny and now he's worried they may have stolen his identity too.

A little much? See by now I would have already put down the book and reached for the phone number of the nearest suicide hotline. How depressing! Balance, it's important.

Of course ~ I'm new at this whole writing business, and as some have said, "Where am I going wrong with this?" Let me know what you think.
By the way ~ because I started with a car accident, and talked about tension, I didn't want anyone to think I was talking about The Familiar Stranger. I reviewed that book earlier in my blog and LOVED it. I think Christina Berry did a fabulous job of balancing it all.


  1. Lee ~ you are awesome ~ I totally agree! The book I read wasn't near that bad, but it did get on my nerves! LOL I put it down for hours at a time, and that doesn't happen when I'm really enjoying a book.

    WOW ~ I'm impressed! You really "know your stuff" when it comes to conflict. I can't wait to read your first book! Do you already have one/some in print? If so, where do I get it/them?

    I'm honored to be mentioned in your post. :)

    ~ Lori

    ** PS - did you get an email from me @ your Yahoo! address? **

  2. Lori, I am so thankful for all your comments and how friendly you have been ~ Thank you! I checked the e-mail and sent a reply.

    As for my book... I have a finished manuscript, but it is a draft that I am in the "final" revision stages on. Once I get finished, then I plan to send it to my editor and get the "polish" edit and then publish the book.

    This one is a square peg trying to fit into the round holes of the publishing world. I was going to shelve it, but those who read it really liked the plot & characters. They wanted me to soldier on. My editor and I looked and looked and there just wasn't anyone who "fit" this particular manuscript. It is like a spice cake. There are quite a few bits of this and that in it... but they all blend together quite well. It's getting even better as I revise. I don't have any illusions that I'm the next Julie Lessman, Ted Dekkar, Colleen Coble , Amy Tang, Kaye Dacus, Francine Rivers, or Christina Berry... but I hope my family won't be ashamed when it comes out. I think it has some really wonderful moments and I can honestly say it's original.

    My other ideas are totally different than this one. Revising is going slow. I really want to get it right. Please pray for me. And when it comes out, if you do read it, only review it if you like it. lol

  3. Hey Lee ~ I've stopped by to drop off an award for you. You can pick it up here:

    Thanks ~ Lori :)

  4. LOL! I can't believe I was even mentioned in the same sentence as Ted Dekker and Francine Rivers. :D You are AWESOME!

  5. Christina, I am so glad you came by! You are the awesome one! I wish I could come rub your arm or something... lol Maybe some of that talent could come off onto me. :o)