When I mentor writers, I find they often resist depicting the conflict in their stories. It’s as though they don’t want to see their characters suffer.

While it may spring from a generous heart, it’s a misguided kindness. Avoiding conflict drains a story of tension. And that undermines its power.

Don’t let the word “conflict” intimidate you. Conflict does not mean combat. It just means problems. What problems does your main character face in trying to achieve their goal?

Readers are eager to see characters forced to grapple with a crisis. It’s not because they’re sadists. It’s because a big part of fiction’s appeal is that it lets readers experience an emotional bond with a character who faces a dilemma. Their problems make us care.

So your job as a writer is to create situations that put increasing pressures on your characters, forcing them to make difficult choices. The actions they then take will reveal their true nature.

This is as true for a Jane Austen heroine as for the hero in a Stephen King thriller.

No story moves forward except through conflict.

In the planning stage of all my novels, I’ve asked myself, partly in jest, “What could possibly go wrong for these characters?” Ask yourself that same question about the story you’re developing. Then — seriously — make it happen.

Embrace the richness that conflict gives you as a writer. That’s what will leave your readers telling friends, “I couldn’t put it down!”

For 3 tips on how to focus the conflict in your story, watch my video below.

Happy writing!