Anything Can Happen in the Woods

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What is a story without conflict? John wants a glass of water. John goes and gets some water. He drinks it with gusto. He puts the glass down and then sits cheerfully on the couch to watch tv. The end.

Not very exciting, right? John had a desire and he achieved it without a problem. Nothing got in his way, no one tried to stop him. He got what he wanted and was happy. Is that the story you want to read?

You may think, “well, it’s nice that John was happy,” and you’re not wrong. That’s usually what we want for a character – to have things work out well. That sounds like a nice story. BUT! What a reader thinks he wants as opposed to what a reader actually craves are very different animals.

The reader’s desire to see things work out well for the protagonist is forever challenged by the writer throwing conflicts into the characters’ ways. And that, dear reader, is what keeps a reader reading. That desire to see a happy ending and how – how on earth – a protagonist can overcome such odds is the page-turning urge that sells books.

And we want to sell books, don’t we? So, reader/writer, remember this: ruin your characters’ days. Make their lives hard. Annoy them. Throw caltrops in their path. Steal their left shoe.

If you want a reader to crave more, never forget to make your protagonist’s desire difficult to achieve. Never forget conflict.

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