Even seasoned authors can’t always tell the difference between introductions, prefaces, and forewords — especially since they all belong in the front matter of a book, so here’s an easy cheat sheet. Suppose I’m writing a book about the mating habits of wombats (always a thrilling topic, that), here’s how:
1. A foreword would read: "I’ve known the author for ages and consider him to be a superior researcher of wombats and so love this work blah blah blah."
Because: A foreword introduces the author and the topic and is usually written by someone else other than the author — usually someone with a higher profile. Having a foreword from a big name carries credibility and weight well beyond a simple cover endorsement.
2. A preface would read: "In this work, I will outline how wombats are in fact highly effective social strategists by outlining their group dynamics blah blah blah."
Because: The author writes the preface to explain what the book will be about and how he plans to tackle the subject. People often confuse prefaces with introductions (and vice-versa).
3. An introduction would read: “Wombats have fascinated people for ages and not just because of their silly appearances, but because of their wacky mating habits blah blah blah.”
Because: The introduction represents the first step into the subject matter. Think of it as the first chapter. But because a book should stumble right into the core principles but slowly introduce the topic, it is called an introduction.
And there are also these other things called prologues, epilogues, and afterwords, but that’s for another time. Class dismissed.
The beginning of your novel is super important and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Planning out the first few chapters of your novel can be difficult, so I’ve come up with a list of things you should try to avoid. For the most part, pulling from this list will weaken your story. I know there are always exceptions, but I can almost guarantee you many publishers and agents are tired of seeing the same plot devices used over and over again.
So, here are a few ways to automatically weaken your story from the first few sentences:
Start with a long description of your character.
Sure, it helps your readers to have an image of your main character in their minds, BUT you don’t need to put the full description in the first paragraph. There might be a few things you want to mention, but try not to go beyond that until the opportunity presents itself. A full report is not necessary and it will drag your writing down from the beginning. Get creative with how you introduce your character and their appearance. What’s important? What do your readers absolutely need to know? Go with that.
Start with a dream.
I know this does work occasionally, but it happens so often I’m sure most people are sick of it. Starting your novel with a dream is no longer very creative and your readers will just want you to get to the point. However, if you do start with a dream make sure it ties the story together in some way and it’s not just boring story filler.
Start with your character waking up.
This happens so often it’s crazy. It’s alright to begin your novel with something other than your character starting their day. In fact, it’s more exciting when it does. We don’t need to see what they do in the morning or read about them staring at their reflection in the mirror as they get ready for the day. You can start your novel where you want, so do something interesting.
Start with the weather.
Unless your story directly relates to the weather, please try to open your novel with something else. No one really cares about the weather that much, unless it’s some sort of apocalyptic awesome weather, so avoid it where you can.
Start with character emotions/thoughts.
“Where am I?” Amy thought. This is pretty boring. So is, “Amy was sad.” You’re already starting off your novel by telling your readers what your main character is thinking. We want to see it and experience it ourselves. You want to give your readers something to picture. The first sentence of your novel should be exciting and draw your readers in.
Alexander Chen reminisces about studying with the inimitable Annie Dillard, who echoes Mark Twain’s contention that “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources,” Alexander Graham Bell’s assertion that "our most original compositions are composed exclusively of expressions derived from others,” and young Virginia Woolf’s observation that "all the Arts … imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see.”
“Intelligence work has one moral law—it is justified by results.”
-John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. (10)
Spying is a difficult business. Writing about spies with any accuracy is also an incredibly difficult business; this is why the foundational giants of the genre from Ian Fleming to John Le Carre have been ex-intelligence. Without that background, it can be easy to misunderstand that the ability to be a spy comes from the tradecraft and the training. It’s common among writers to build the character first, then give them their skill set. While this will work for a vast number of different character archetypes, functional spies require a fairly specific outlook and it is developed by a specific type of background though that comes from a generic set of circumstances.
Spies can’t be good people and that’s okay, because good people can’t be spies.
(Originally published at The Swivet)
by Colleen Lindsay
Although I’m no longer an agent, I still work with writers and I find that this post is one of the most highly-trafficked entries on my blog. Information on suggested word counts for fiction seems to be tough thing to find online so I decided to not only leave this post up here, but to revise and expand it as needed.
I sat down recently with several fiction editors and hammered out a more comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre & sub-genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things: 1.) these are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time; 2.) these suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up breaking the rules, and 3.) if you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren’t nearly as important.
Something I saw a lot in queries as an agent were word counts that exceeded 100k. Often, a manuscript exceeded this by a considerable amount: I’ve seen word counts of 140k, 160k and one writer actually told me about a YA manuscript he’d written that was 188k.
Somewhere out there a myth developed - especially amongst science fiction and fantasy writers - that a higher word count was better. Writers see big fat fantasies on the shelf and think that they have to write a book just as hefty to get published. And sometimes a writer just writes a long book because they aren’t yet a very good writer. Good writers learn how to pare a manuscript down to its most essential elements, carving away the word count fat that marks so many beginning writers. And the fact of the matter is, most of those “big fat fantasy” books you see on the shelf actually only have a word count of about 100k to 120k.
The exceptions are usually authors who’ve already had an established track record of sales with previous - shorter - books, like George R.R. Martin. And, yes, once in a great while you will see an incredibly long debut novel. But the writing has to be absolutely stellar; knock-down, drag-out, kick-you-in-the-teeth amazing. (A good example is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which clocks in at just about 240,000 words.)
And I should also point out here that the longer a successful writer has been with a publishing house and the more actual dollars that author brings to the house (and the bigger that author’s advances get), the more clout that author may have regarding being able to keep his or her novel intact, without taking advantage of the editorial guidance being offered. And that is never a good thing for the book. Editors exist for a damned good reason, and no author is ever such a fabulous writer that a good editor can’t find things to make better in his or her manuscript.
There was a time about ten or so years ago when bigger word counts were the norm and not the exception. Like everything, the book industry goes through trends. But these days, editors of adult fiction - even editors of epic fantasy - squirm a little when presented with a manuscript that runs over 110k words. Books with a higher page count cost more to physically produce, resulting in a higher per-book manufacturing cost, meaning even more copies will need to be sold to make the estimated P&L work.
Publishers want to make money; bookstores want to make money. Do the math.
When you search around the Internet for information on word counts, you get a lot of conflicting information, some of it just plain wrong, and often this information is coming from sources that would appear reputable to a writer who didn’t know any better. One article I read last week that was posted online at a major writing magazine actually insists that the average novel (non-genre) is 150,000 words. I have no idea where the writer of the article got his or her information, but that’s simply untrue. An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre.
Word counts for different kinds of novels vary, but there is are general rules of thumb for fiction that a writer can use when trying to figure out just how long is too long. For the purposes of this post, I’m only talking about YA, middle-grade and adult fiction here. And bear in mind that there are always exceptions, but good general rules of thumb would be as follows:middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35kYA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn’t be word count for the sake of word count.
paranormal romance = 85k to 100k
romance = 85k to 100k
category romance = 55k to 75k
cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k
horror = 80k to 100k
western = 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)
mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.
mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Depending upon the kind of fiction, this can vary: chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there’s been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k. Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn’t something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)
science fiction & fantasy = Here’s where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I’ve spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn’t buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn’t need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:
—-> hard sf = 90k to 110k
—-> space opera = 90k to 120k
—-> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
—-> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
—-> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
—-> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
—-> new weird = 85k to 110k
—-> slipstream = 80k to 100k
—-> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
—-> everything else = 90k to 100k
Editors will often make exceptions for sequels, by the way. Notice that the page count in both J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series gets progressively higher. But even authors who have been published for years and should know better will routinely turn in manuscripts that exceed the editor’s requested length by 30k to 50k words, which inevitably means more work for that author because editors don’t back down. If a contract calls for a book that is 100k words and you turn in one that is 130k, expect to go back and find a way to shave 30k words off that puppy before your manuscript is accepted.
Remember that part of the payout schedule of an author’s advance often dangles on that one important word: acceptance.
I cannot stress highly enough that there are always exceptions to every rule, especially in SF/F. Jacqueline Carey and Peter F. Hamilton, among others, have proven this quite successfully. If an agent finds a truly outstanding book that runs in the 200k range (yes, it happens!), he or she may advise your cutting the manuscript into two books to make life easier for everyone. But for a debut novelist who is trying to catch the eye of an agent or editor for the first time? Err on the side of caution with your word count.
Anonymous asked: Hi! I really love your blog! I noticed you have character development guides (or something along the lines, I’m on mobile) and I was wondering if you had anything for a medieval king. What kind of problems he might face, castle layout, anything really would be helpful. Thank you!!!!!
Medieval Kings - Quick Facts
- The medieval era lasted from about 476 AD to 1453 AD
- Medieval Europe was a feudalistic society
- Medieval kings had absolute power over their kingdom
- Medieval kings were expected to lead the royal army into battle and were often captured, injured, or killed on the battlefield
- Medieval kings were not secure on their throne until they had at least one son and heir
- Many medieval kings were patrons of arts, architecture, literature, and the advancement of learning
Medieval Kings - Accession
A medieval king would come to his throne by one of two means: inheritance or conquest. For every king there was a “order of succession” which followed various rules about who was next in line for the throne. The firstborn son of the king was automatically his heir, with his brothers coming in order of age behind him. Females were skipped over in favor of male heirs, going as far as nephews. Women rarely inherited the throne in most places, though there are some exceptions. If a king died when his heir was still a small child, a regent would be named to rule on his behalf until he was mature enough to rule on his own. In some cases the regent might be the queen, but more typically it was a brother or uncle of the king.
Sometimes the throne was taken by force, either by an invader from another kingdom or by another claimant to the throne. During the English War of the Roses (early renaissance), the throne was usurped back and forth between two houses, Lancaster and York. Lancaster was the direct line back to Edward III, while York descended from one of Edward III’s younger brothers, giving York a legitimate but lesser claim to the throne. Lancastrian Henry VI was de-throned by York heir, Edward IV. When Edward died, his brother Richard was meant to be regent for young king Edward V, but instead the boy was imprisoned and later disappeared, and Richard claimed the throne for himself, becoming Richard III. Later, the throne would be usurped once again by the descendant of yet another brother of Edward III, Henry Tudor who became Henry VII, father of infamous king Henry VIII. In most cases, the deposed king died in battle or was otherwise killed to keep them from fighting for their throne.
Once the throne was won, the new king would “clean house” by evaluating who supported him and who didn’t, and would retract and redistribute lands and titles accordingly. Anyone found to be plotting rebellion would be branded a traitor and imprisoned or sometimes executed without trial. Lords who wished not to part with their heads would have sworn fealty to the new king and either keep their heads down for awhile, or do their best to give an all out show of support.
In most places, as soon as possible after the death of the old king, the new king would be crowned in a coronation ceremony. These were the most important event of a king’s early reign outside accession. They were very grand events that took place in a cathedral or church in front of the kingdom’s most important people. The rituals were different in different places. In England, all monarchs have been officially crowned in Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The king enters the church in a procession, is seated on a chair of estate while the archbishop confirms the homage of those in attendance and administers the coronation oath. Then he is seated on a coronation chair and is anointed with holy oil and given the symbolic sceptre and orb, and then the crown of St. Edward is placed on his head. If the king is married, his wife will become queen consort, and is also sometimes crowned during this ceremony though in a much less impressive ritual. Sometimes the queen’s coronation was held later, and some queen consorts were never officially crowned.
Medieval Kings - Structure of the Kingdom
In medieval times, all the land in the kingdom belonged to the king, giving him absolute authority and the ability to parcel it out for sub-rule to those he saw fit to govern on his behalf. These lands were distributed strategically, often as a reward for service, and included a title (such as Duke of York or Earl of Warwick) as well as castles and manors. These titles could be created, given, or taken away by the king at any time, but typically they were passed down by heredity along with the lands and buildings to the heir of the title holder. Sometimes these men would build their own castles and homes, all of which belonged to the king first and foremost, giving him the authority to take away and redistribute them as well. In some cases a noble would hold multiple titles and lands at once, as favorites of the king were heavily rewarded. This practice often created animosity among the nobility and distaste for the king, which sometimes led to political strife and war within the kingdom. At other times, political strife and war came from sources outside the kingdom by way of countries wanting to invade, or fighting over foreign lands, such as the battles for land in France between the English and French during the Hundred Years War.
These nobles were required to swear fealty to the king to ensure their support and fidelity in times of political strife and war. In addition to maintaining and protecting the land and its people according to the king’s wishes, these nobles were responsible for dispensing local justice, collecting taxes, and raising an army during a call to arms. If it became necessary for the king to go to war, his retainers would recruit men from households big and small, with the bulk of the army consisting of peasants. They fought under the banner of their lord, who was often their commander, as well as beneath the banner of their king. When there were political divisions within the kingdom, such as during the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York, a king would have to hope that his retainers would stay loyal and not turncoat and fight for the other side. In a time when battles were largely fought hand-to-hand, the size of an army could make or break a battle for a king, so it was important that all of his retainers played their part and recruited as many men as possible.
Medieval Kings - Daily Life and Concerns
A medieval king would adopt any number of existing castles and palaces as official royal residences, and would often commission castles and palaces of his own. These royal homes were scattered across the kingdom, and the king and his court would change residences frequently throughout the year. Sometimes the move was simply seasonal, other times in pursuit of good hunting or strategic position ahead of battle or invasion. Most kings had their favorite castles and palaces, and sometimes a move was made to a favorite location much like you might go to a vacation home for a few weeks during the summer.
The king’s court was made up of the people closest to him: his family, close friends and advisers, and the various lords and ladies who made up the royal household. There would also be commoners at each residence to do the lowliest jobs, such as turning a spit in the kitchen. Each residence would have royal chambers set aside for the king and queen who had their own rooms, as well as chambers for various members of the king’s court. Courtiers also had their own homes and lands, but they would be called to court for a variety of reasons, including serving in any number of important positions required to keep the kingdom and the royal household running smoothly.
Upon waking, usually in his own bedchamber or perhaps in the queen’s, the king would get ready for the day with the assistance of his stewards. He would break his fast and perhaps worship or pray, and then he would set about the business of the day. In more relaxing times, he might engage in any number of leisurely activities like hunting or falconry. The king’s primary duty was to protect and manage the kingdom, which required him to make dough decisions about politic, war, foreign policy, and money, usually with advice from his royal council, which was made up of his most trusted advisers. In matters of far-reaching importance, the lords of the realm would be summoned to weigh-in on the situation, which gave rise to what we now know as parliament.
In addition to the more important matters of state, the king was also responsible for settling various disputes, rewarding his retainers, and making decisions about things affecting the court and his various residences. Many kings were also patrons of the arts, literature, and charitable causes. When the king wasn’t signing documents, discussing important matters, or making decisions, he might be found spending time with his family or courtiers or engaging in any number of leisurely activities. In the evenings, there were often grand dinners held in the banquet hall. The king and queen would sit upon a dais facing the tables where their courtiers sat. The monarchs would be served first, and after tasting each dish they would send the remainder to their favorites. During these dinners, the king and queen were often served by their own courtiers, and this was considered a great honor. Dinner might be accompanied by music, mummers or jesters, and dancing.
During quieter times, the queen might be found in her rooms along with her ladies (aka ladies in waiting), where they might sew banners or garments for the poor, play music or view small entertainments such as musicians or performers. They would also use this time to learn new dance steps, and possibly read or pray. The king and queen would also visit the royal nursery, either together or separately, to spend time with their children.
When it was time to move to a new residence, or if the king wanted to tour his kingdom, the entire court would go on what was known as a “progress.” This involved packing up the belongings and important daily trappings of the king, queen, and the entire court. These would be loaded onto wagons, and along with servants, the royal guard, soldiers of the king’s army, and the courtiers, this huge royal caravan would roll through the countryside to their destination. The king would have gone on his warhorse, and the queen might choose to ride her own horse or perhaps ride in a litter. They would make stops along the way to rest the horses and to have small meals, but if they needed to stop for a longer period, they would often stop at the castles or manors of their courtiers along the way. This royal visit was considered to be a huge honor, but it also put an incredible financial strain on even the wealthiest courtier, as they would be responsible for feeding and housing not only the king and queen but all of the courtiers and servants they brought along with them. For the common townspeople, seeing a king and queen on progress would have been one of the only opportunities to see the royal family. This would have been a huge deal, as these people were unaccustomed to seeing such opulence in any other way. They would have lined the roads to watch the caravan go by, and they might wave and shout out compliments or blessings. Sometimes the king might throw coins, or he might stop to hear complaints and dispense justice.
Medieval Kings - Marriage, Children, and Family
The royal family was the heart of the kingdom and consisted of the king, queen, princes and princesses, the king’s younger brothers and their wives, sometimes the dowager queen, and often a whole slew of uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Marriages were made for political and financial gain and almost never for love (though there are some notable exceptions). The spouses of the royal children were chosen by the king, his council, and sometimes with input from the queen or other advisers. Betrothals were often made in the cradle, and sometimes a prince or princess could be betrothed multiple times since marriages often fell through due to death or politics. Sometimes an unmarried adult would become king, either through conquest or upon the death of his predecessor, at which point he would have some say in the wife he chose, though he would still choose a beneficial match and rely heavily upon input from his advisers. Royal women were especially used as political pawns, often married off to foreign royals to build or strengthen alliances, sometimes when they were very young. In fact, even the nobility used the marriages of their children to forge and strengthen family alliances and to consolidate wealth and lands, though they had to appeal for approval of any match by the king. Divorce was extremely rare and was usually only granted when the woman was unable to bear a child. In the case of royals, at least, divorce required dispensation from the Pope in Rome. If a spouse died and the royal or noble was still of an age to procreate, they would likely be sent into a new marriage. A woman beyond child bearing years could stay widowed or in some cases could marry for love, though she would have to choose her husband carefully to avoid scandal.
The birth of a male heir was of the utmost importance, to a king especially, but also to nobles who had lands and titles to pass down. Outside of securing an alliance through their marriage, providing an heir was considered to be the woman’s most important function, even if she was an anointed queen. The king would come to the queen’s chambers as often as it took to get her pregnant, at which point he would retire from the marriage bed and possibly take up with a mistress. Interestingly, kings were allowed to be unfaithful and often fathered bastards, which sometimes were brought into the royal fold if their mothers were noble. However, if the queen were found to be with a man besides the king, this was considered to be treason and could even be punished by death. Although this was unfair, it did have a practical reason for existing. The queen was considered to be a royal vessel for delivery of an heir, and if she were to get pregnant by a man other than the king, this could lead to a non-royal inheriting the throne unbeknownst to the royal family.
The pregnant queen or noble would go into confinement weeks before the birth. For the queen, this meant being shut into a room with very little her light, where only other women could visit her. Not even the king was allowed to see her during this time. She would stay in confinement until a few weeks after the birth, at which point she would be “churched” or blessed because she was considered to be unclean from the birth. After this ritual she was allowed to return to royal life and the pursuit of another heir.
Queens and noblewomen typically had little to do with the raising of their children, though again, there are some exceptions. Royal babies had an entire staff dedicated to feeding and care, including wet nurses and cradle rockers. When the heir was a toddler, he would be sent away to his own household along with a trusted guardian who would help educate him and raise him to be a king. Younger princes and princesses would often stay in the royal nursery until they were married.
Even though kings didn’t typically marry for love, sometimes they grew to love their queens very much, which allowed some queens to become powerful in their own right by helping to guide her husband’s policy and decisions. This was not usually appreciated by the king’s council, however, and this could be a major source of conflict.
Medieval Kings - Castle and Palace Layout
Castles were strongholds meant to withstand an attack. As such, they were surrounded by a high defensive wall, towers, and a moat. There might be a number of structures within the castle walls, but the largest is what we call the keep. Sometimes the royal chambers were within the keep, and at other times there were other structures that housed the monarchs and their court. There would also be a great banquet hall, a chapel, a kitchen and bakery, a brewery, stables, and a dungeon.
Palaces were more casual residences, without walls and fortifications, usually contained within one structure. Palaces would have had chambers to house the monarchs and their household, along with a banquet hall and the other rooms important to the king’s daily life.
Note: this is meant only as an introduction to medieval kings and should be supplemented by your own research, as much of this was done off the top of my head. ;)
Links and other resources:
Medieval Kings and Queens
Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings
Life in a Medieval Castle
Medieval Castle Layout
Medieval Castle Floor Plans
Layout of a Castle (GIS)
Life in a Medieval Castle: The Smells, Sounds and Structure of Medieval Castle Life
Medieval People: Titles, Positions, Trades, and Classes
Eras of Elegance: Medieval
If you want to read some novels about medieval life, monarchy, and courtiers, here are a few that I would recommend:
Katherine by Anya Seton
The Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone
Eleanor of Aquitane by Alison Weir
Captive Queen by Alison Weir
The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory
If you want to watch some movies and shows about medieval life, monarchy, and courtiers, here are a few that I would recommend:
The Lion in Winter (HIGHLY recommend if you can find it)
Kingdom of Heaven
The Hollow Crown
Pretty solid, but some corrections need to be made:
- Medieval kings had absolute power over their kingdoms in practice only. There were exceptions like Charlemagne and Albert the Great that somehow managed to exert centralizing power over their nations, but for the most part, the king was the nobles’ bitch until he started collecting taxes directly from the burgher/city-dwelling class.
- Medieval kings generally did the most battlefield leading before the 1100s. They were expected to direct troops and provide a strategy, but they weren’t screaming into battle headfirst unless you were a diehard like Richard the Lionheart (who incidentally died in battle). Also, most battles in the Middle Ages were sieges.
- Hoo boy. The king owned all that land and all those castles mostly in practice. If he tried to take it away, he’d have a huge legal battle - or actual battle - on his hands. Kings often redistributed the lands of traitors in times of war or other times when popular opinion was still strong enough to give his words weight.
- Palaces were crazy impractical until the invention of gunpowder (and also until the kings had a large enough treasury to build something like Versailles, which was after/during the Renaissance).
- Thank you for mentioning kings were patrons of the arts because they were. If they weren’t, other members of his household like his wife or children would be. Music and books were the main sources of entertainment if you could afford it. Extremely wealthy nobles like the king certainly could. And thank you for mentioning charity. There was a specific office called the almoner whose entire job was to manage charity for the poor.
- Yooooo no one traveled on a warhorse. Palfreys for the win! Maybe kings would switch to a destrier for the shock and awe when he entered a city, but smooth-gaited palfreys were the way to move around.
- Finally, ay dios mio, don’t watch Braveheart as indicative of medieval society.
Listen to most of what this post says and ye shall prosper.
It’s very hard to have a story without conflict. If you think about it, it’s really hard to go through the day without some sort of conflict. Did you have trouble finding a parking spot at school? That’s conflict. Did you forget to do your homework? Also conflict. Did your shoe come untied at an inopportune time? CONFLICT. Conflict is all around us. However, the conflict I described doesn’t necessarily make your novel exciting. There are a few ways to create better, stronger conflict in your novel.
Your main character needs to face obstacles. These obstacles can vary, but they usually come in the form of the antagonist. There’s usually someone who doesn’t want to see your main character succeed or wants that opposite thing that your protagonist wants. The antagonist can create many obstacles for your protagonist, therefore creating conflict. Something has to go wrong in your novel. Conflict has to happen.
If you’re looking to make your conflict stronger, try following these tips:
Include both “big” conflict and “small” conflict.
Sure, many novels include certain life-changing moments that will alter your main character’s life forever, but a novel needs to be made up of both big and small conflict. For example, your main character can suddenly be thrust into a situation where they need to stop the antagonist or the world will end, but they can also be a situation where they simply have a frustrating day. A small conflict does not lessen the bigger conflict, it actually helps humanize your main character and make them more relatable. We have both big and small moments in our life, but they all eventually add up and tell the story of us.
Figure out what your main character values and use it against them.
Conflict doesn’t work properly if you take away something your main character doesn’t care about. They need to really be fighting for something they believe in for it to matter to any of us. Think about what your main character values most. Their family? Love? Friendship? It can even be something like free will. If any of those things are threatened, that will create incredible conflict that we all care about. If your character feels deeply about something, they’re going to be extra motivated to save it.
Introduce risk and then raise the stakes.
There needs to be some risk involved in order to create conflict. If the conflict is easily resolved and will not change your main character’s day-to-day activities, it will get boring really fast. Writing a novel isn’t just about conflict/resolution, it’s also about sustaining that conflict throughout your novel. Say your main character needs to get to a location. The journey itself might be difficult enough just getting there, but then he comes across a dragon that he has to defeat. That’s raising the stakes of the original conflict. Making things more and more difficult until there’s finally a resolution will create suspense. You have to keep adding on to it.