Few people seek out conflict. Most of us, by nature, want to get along. We prefer our lives free of fighting, anger, and the kind of people who prevent us from reaching our goals.
Except where fiction is concerned.
Good fiction brims to the top with conflict. Nefarious characters lurk behind every corner, waiting to kick the protagonist’s puppy, steal his cupcakes, and shatter his every dream.
New authors often err on the side of harmony – and not just where the villain is concerned. Mealymouthed protagonists refuse to defend their puppies. The supporting proves just that – an instrument of unmitigated support.
All of which may be pleasant to write, but it’s boring, boring, BORING to read.
A novel is 297 pages’ worth of torturing your protagonist … and three pages in which the hero gets his revenge (unless he only needs two). “Torture” has many definitions when it comes to plot and scene, but one idea arches over all:
If your hero is having the time of his life, without a care in the world, someone had better have planted a body in the trunk of the car he’s driving and broken the taillights so the police will pull him over and find it there.
Conflict doesn’t always have to stay at the same emotional level – in fact, your fiction will suffer if it does – but if someone isn’t interfering with your protagonist somehow on every page (or very close to it) your readers will suffer even more.