A character who wants something and is willing to face conflict to get it.
If we just have a character who wants something, then that's someone sitting in a chair daydreaming. But, if we add conflict, internal or external or both, that creates a story.
Conflict creates action, or the anticipation of action, and that creates suspense. And that's what makes a story compelling.
In Underwear Probation, Daisy wants professional success, but she also wants to learn to submit to her husband. In this scene, those two desires appear to be in conflict, which creates tension.
Time for your inspection. Please lean over the desk.”
Daisy looked toward the door, then back at Reece.
“The rules are meant to be followed immediately and without hesitation. Don’t you trust me to know what to do?”
“Y-yes,” Daisy was torn. She wanted to follow the rules and please Reece, but what if someone came to the door? How could she ever return to work once everyone in the office found out that she’d been caught bent over her desk with her bare ass exposed?
“I was going to lock the door,” Reece said, “but since you didn’t follow my instructions right away, I’m imposing a new sanction.”
Daisy watched in horror as he walked to the door and opened it a few inches, then turned to his wife. “You are my wife and you need to trust me. So, you can either trust my judgment and bend over that desk right now, or you can walk out that door. It’s your choice.”
In a spanking story, the question of submission can be a source of conflict. Even in a romance where you know there will be a happily ever after, the question of how they will get there, can they resolve their conflicts, is what keeps you reading.
In Cara Bristol's False Pretenses, Dan and Emma are totally hot for each other and rapidly falling in love. But, they each have a secret that the other doesn't know about. Keeping a secret creates conflict. How does Emma keep Dan from knowing what she's up to? Will he find out? What will happen if he does? As readers we know these two secrets are going to collide and that's what keeps us going. (Plus the hot sex and spanking...)
So, last week we talked about story ideas. Now that you have an idea or two, how can you create conflict? Conflict doesn't have to be two people arguing with each other. It can be an internal conflict: a woman wants to find love but she doesn't feel sexy because she's overweight, so when a man hits on her she ignores him because she assumes he just feels sorry for her. Her desire to find love is in conflict with her attitude about herself (which is NOT the same as saying she won't find love because she's fat).
An external conflict---they are on opposite sides of a hot button issue, or at least a hot button issue for the two of them. In the movie, You've Got Mail, the conflict is between the small, personal bookstore and the mega boxstore bookseller. Most people might not care, but for Meg Ryan's character, it was a big deal.
Conflict also molds the characters and at least one of them ends up changed in some way in order for the story to work out.
What are some ways to create conflict that you've seen in books or movies? Which ones work and which ones don't? Are there any that you think are overused?