Recently when I looked over the first draft of my latest novel in order to buckle down and start editing, I noticed that there were a lot of sections that bored me. My mind started to wander and I couldn’t figure out why. Looking more closely, I found the answer: I was playing it too safe. And as I played it safe, I dulled the conflict in my story.
In order to ramp up the tension in excitement, I had to master this one technique: I had to get uncomfortable.
Allow Your Characters to Make Mistakes
I found that my lack of tension and conflict stemmed from me not letting my characters mess up. In a sense, I’d gotten too close to them, as if they were real friends, and because of that, I didn’t want them to get hurt.
I know writers who feel the same way. As hard as it may be, it is crucial that your characters be flawed. Allow them to screw up, because that’s what creates conflict. That’s what makes your story interesting.
The wonderful thing about fiction is that your characters can do everything you would never do in real life. Take that opportunity and let your characters make big choices. Allow them to feel pain. When you think you’ve gone big enough, go bigger. Be bold.
Engage Difficult Emotions
On a similar note, something that really benefits your writing is talking about tricky issues. You can connect even the most whimsical story with the real world if you tap into human emotion.
Write about pain, heartbreak, grief, injustice, rage, and all of the other uncomfortable feelings that exist. Go deep. It may be challenging to write, but it will transform your characters from ink to flesh and blood.
Writing is hard to begin with, but writing about painful topics or making mistakes can be even harder. The good news is, if you have a visceral reaction to your own writing, you’re doing something right.
Like Robert Frost famously said,
You, the author, have to tap into your own emotions to connect with the reader’s.
So take the plunge. Get uncomfortable.
How do you make sure there is plenty of conflict in your story? Do you struggle to allow your characters to make mistakes? Let us know in the comments.
Write a scene where your protagonist makes a huge mistake. How does it affect them? How does it affect their friends, family, enemies? How much conflict can you pack into this one scene?
Write for fifteen minutes, being sure to get uncomfortable and dig deep. When you’re finished, feel free to share your work in the comments. Remember to give your fellow writers some love, too. Have fun!