Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do we Worry about our Character’s Inner Conflict?


I  have read lots on adding conflict and tension on every page, getting our MC into frequent trouble to keep readers engrossed. All of us are aware of adding healthy doses of trouble for the MC in our stories. Keeping these pointers in mind, we all have carved out a perfect  antagonist who will bring about the right amount of tension and conflict in our stories.

I am just wondering, if we all are paying that much attention to our character’s Inner Conflict, or as one writer called it the Inner Journey. This inner conflict is extremely crucial for  a character’s growth. It’s these constant battles with one’s inner demons  that is a true test of character strength.

All of us have our inner demons to conquer: jealousy, envy, anger, temptations, indiscipline, insecurities, fears, anxieties, lack of trust and worries. Actually if we pay attention, everyday life is full of these small and big  inner conflicts that we constantly fight and sometimes try to hide from the world. It’s all these small monsters  that make us the unique individuals  that we are.

When we successfully manage to avoid that second piece of chocolate cake, with the strong reasoning that we need to stick to our diet plans, when we avoid over spending time on various social networking sites as we need to chalk up our word count for the day, when we bite back the words that rise up our throats when people bug us, we  show a strength of character. We can apply the same rules for the characters in our books. 
               
Character weaknesses and the way the character overcomes them are all a part of the inner journey which is as crucial as the external journey. We can add the inner conflict by giving our character few shortcomings: fear of heights, ego problems, a short temper, laziness, spending too much  money or being stingy, relationship issues, sibling rivalry, issues with bosses and juniors at work.

When our characters succumb to these temptations (even that is a good sign, as then we can make them wallow in guilt and misery) or overcome the temptations ( by pushing away the objects that were tempting them, this will show that our characters can summon their  inner strength  to conquer their shortcomings.) 

Let me tell you the truth, I am not very good with adding inner conflict. Do you all have any tips  for me to work on the Inner Conflict? How do we enhance that or add elements that can highlight the inner conflict of our characters?

24 comments:

  1. It is a tricky area, Rachna and one I'm still having to concentrate on when writing. It's so easy to let the plot rule the day!
    And for some peculiar reason, it's a little easier to write inner conflict from the antagonist's point of view. Is it because we're all a little bad inside and we understand?? :)

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  2. You're right about the inner conflict journey. I'll have to pay more attention to that in my reading and see how authors do it, if they do it!

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  3. @ Sheryl..it is indeed a tricky area. I am struggling to add my characters' inner conflicts. I wish someone could give me few pointers and advice.

    @ Laura...I am currently analyzing the inner conflicts of characters in the books I am reading to learn how to do it well.

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  4. Other than knowing there needs to be a balance between inner and outer conflict, I have no real tips for it.

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  5. "Actually if we pay attention, everyday life is full of these small and big inner conflicts that we constantly fight and sometimes try to hide from the world. It’s all these small monsters that make us the unique individuals that we are."

    This is SO true and I love the way you wrote it, Rachna. One thing that helped me was to make a worksheet that had two columns: Inner Conflict and Outer Conflict. I would add a conflict and try to make sure the columns were equal and made sense. Also, I made a tiny "map" that plotted how this inner conflict would change throughout the novel.

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  6. Well... Think of conflict. Conflict is anything that prevents/threatens to prevent the MC from reaching the goal.

    So inner conflict are those things from the character's internal landscape that stands in the way of the goal. So if the goal is losing weight, fighting a sweet tooth is a source of inner conflict.

    If the goal is to exact revenge, cold feet or guilt might serve.

    If it's to achieve greatness, feeling unworthy will be the greatest obstacle.

    Hope that helps.

    :-)

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  7. Great post. The power of tension blogfest made me realise how many types of conflict/tension there are and that some are so much more subtle than others. My WIP contains inner conflict in spade fulls, I think/hope. :O)

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  8. ohh amazingly true... nice read.. :)

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  10. @ Lynda..yes, I have often heard that there has to be a balance between inner and external conflict.

    @ Saumya..I love the idea of having a worksheet with both the conflicts. What a wonderful way to see if the conflicts are equal. And the idea of a conflict map to see how the inner conflict changes over the course of the story really appeals to me. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea.

    @ Misha....Loved your examples. They really simplified the matter. I have a tendency to overlook the inner conflict. Now, with your help and examples I will work on them.

    @ Madeleine...there definitely are lots of conflicts that we can pepper our books with. You are lucky that your WIP contains lots of inner conflict.

    @ Rachit...thanks.

    @ Nilofer.... will visit your blog.

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  11. Interesting post - I look at the inner and outer conflicts of my characters. I haven't been writing very long and some early advice I received was to see how all the charcaters link together, who knows who etc. That can spark some fruitful conflict.

    Also, I give every character a secret. I'll rarely divulge the secret in the story but if I know it, then it fleshes out the writing somehow.

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  12. I don't have any tips, as sometimes I fail to do that too. I think just asking yourself questions that dig deeper into your character's concerns in each rewrite helps. Each rewrite takes you deeper into the character because you know more about her/him each time. I don't think there is any easy way to go about it. You could decide in advance what the conflicts are, but you might get a flat character. It's when the character starts having a will of their own on the page that you really find out who they are.

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  13. I LOVE inner angst so naturally I tend to go overboard with the internal narrative. My agents not so hot on the navel gazing.

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  14. Good job Rachna. You do inner conflict all the time when you are talking about writing- I love that about you. Sooo.... maybe you can transfer that understanding to your own characters?? Maybe I could do that too...
    Thanks!

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  15. Rachna, I also struggle with this. It's all a tough balancing act, but thankfully my critique partners point out where I need to add more inner conflict.

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  16. I try to establish the inner conflict, but sometimes by the end of the story, things have gotten so complicated I've forgotten about them!

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  17. I like the examples you used. As an occasional writer of literary short stories, inner conflict in a character is very interesting to me, and it is what gives rise to the story sometimes. Thanks for the timely reminder of its importance in our writing.

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  18. I think the key to inner conflict is understanding your character's controlling belief, which is the character's idea about the world or who he or she is. It can include the character's wants, but it's more than that. It may not even be conscious to the character, but it informs what he or she does--it shapes how the character sees and interacts with the world. Examples of controlling beliefs are things like "I'm a bad daughter" "I never get a lucky break" "I can't do anything right" "I have no power" Those beliefs influence the decisions the character makes, oftens creating internal and external conflict.

    For character-driven fiction, the internal journey is often the driver - above and beyond external conflict. These are the stories I LOVE, the ones I am writing!

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  19. I think inner conflict is vital to a really great book. It's what connects us with characters and keeps all the human drama really juicy as everyone's issues collide.

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  20. I think its one of the trickiest parts of writing characters. I'm still figuring mine out.

    .........dhole

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  21. I found you from Saumya's Blog. I think this is an amazingly philosophical post. I'm following you now so I can read more of your words.

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  22. Rachna...now I want to read books penned by you...One needs to be a gifted storyteller to think about the conflicts and characters so intensely. Your posts always stir the mind and leave me thinking.....

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  23. I write inner conflict much the way I work through it personally. But then, I am writing adult fiction, too, which would obviously differ from YA and children's books. I think we can all get better - we're always learning, aren't we?

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  24. I think there's definitely something to be said about thinking about oru MC's inner conflict on every page, or at least every chapter. Conflict adds depth and roundness to not just the charcter, but to the stroy.

    If done really well, can often add sub-plots, which can lead on to an author being able to make one story into a series. Or even writing another book of a character who appeared in the first. Maybe not the mc again, but a secondary character.

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