STATUS: I started my day on the phone with the tech people on why I could send email but people weren’t receiving them. I have to say that computer or email tech problems rank up there as high stress. Still, it’s just a complication—not a conflict.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? JUNGLE LOVE by Steve Miller Band
My author Linnea Sinclair gave a great workshop this weekend and a point she made in her class really crystallized an issue I often see in sample pages—and that’s the problem of writers confusing complication with conflict. They are not the same.
And here’s a good way to explain the difference.
Let’s say that a man and woman decide to head out to the park to have a romantic picnic. They have wine, cheese, and other yummy foods that incite romantic inclinations such as little smooches etc.
Suddenly the picnic is overrun by red ants (or something equally nasty) and the couple must spring apart and it derails the picnic.
This is a complication—not a conflict. The ants are simply present (and would be if the couple was there enjoying the picnic or not).
Now, let’s set up the same scenario with the couple, the wine & cheese, and the romantic picnic. Instead of ants showing up, the man’s wife appears on the scene.
Conflict is always personal.
Linnea also pointed out that misunderstanding, distrust, and coincidence are all minor complications (and not conflict). I see this in manuscript sample pages a lot too. The writer is relying on some big secret misunderstanding that if known, would have made it a non-story. That if the two main characters had just had a chance to talk about what they weren’t getting, then problem solved.
And I know as a reader, I always feel cheated if I read a work and ultimately it’s just a miscommunication. Makes me feel like the rug was pulled out from underneath me.
Now you can layer these complications into a manuscript. Just don’t mistake it for being the conflict.