Thursday, April 5, 2012

Create the Conflict Before You Write the Novel

Is the world of your next novel rock solid? You've picked the time frame. You've chosen your locations and tailor-made them to set the mood--dark, romantic, challenging, adventurous. You're dying to parachute your characters into the fray. Don't. Not yet.

Now decide what beliefs and past histories drive your characters and hence drive the plot. Ever read novels where the bad guys have no redeeming features and the good guys are Dudley Do-Rights, where the good guys always beat the bad guys and you know who to cheer for. The real world is not this way. The more conflicted people and events are the better your novel will be.

Example: In Room 1515, I don't have a true protagonist. I created an anti-heroine, a flawed woman pursuing the enemies of her country, but dissolution sets in when she questions the tactics of her mentors. I don't have a true antagonist. I abandoned the archetypal villain for one who is sympathetic and even likable while being ruthless. Complex characters hold readers interest.

A question from a recent interview asked, "What makes Room 1515 unique when compared to other novels about power-brokers taking over the world." My answer is that in Room 1515 the motive of the villain is noble. He believes humanity will destroy the earth. Greed is keeping nations from tackling the problem of global warming and pollution, and there isn't time to reason with selfish idiots anymore. He'll do anything necessary to rule the world and save it.

Authors need to establish a twist that is different to make their book unique and interesting. Do it before you drop your characters into a battle they're not ready for. We'll talk about dropping them in next time.

I write thrillers, not mysteries. I've been asked, "What is the difference?" I agree good Mystery, Suspense, Thriller novels have aspects of all three. For me, mysteries lean toward the 'who-done-it?' Thrillers lean toward the 'how are they doing it, and how do we stop them?' Suspense to me is tension throughout the novel. If the problem is bad, it's going to get worse. When it does get worse, prepare for the tornado.

Now for shameless marketing. Watch my Room1515 YouTube video to see if you like it.

To buy the book, go to:

1 comment:

john Biggs said...

Bill, In Room 1515, your protagonist starts out as a blank page--no emotions at all. She's interesting, but readers aren't sure they're going to like her enough to climb into her skin. As the story progresses you add one human element at a time so it becomes progressively easier to identify with her. This is a very compelling way to develop a character arch. Did you know you were doing that from the very beginning, or did the idea develop organically as you worked out the plot?