1. thabear637
    Offline

    thabear637 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2

    How far into the novel should the big conflict arise?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by thabear637, Jul 15, 2009.

    Hello, I'm on my first novel (about the 3rd time i started it hehe..kept having new ideas I finally am very happy with this one). From my understanding, I should be aiming for my fantasy novel to be between 60,000 and 100,000 words for the most part.

    So far I'm near the end of chapter 3 and have written close to 9,000 words. I have already realized I am writing too much (I think) and will have to skim the word count down after my rough draft. So far each chapter has had some conflict in it but it's still somewhat introducing the characters, the land, and more importantly the history. However, like all stories, there is a big conflict the MC will go through and I'm just curious how many words into it most people introduce their main conflict?

    I know this is just my rough draft and I plan on writing it just with whats on my mind and my revisions can take care of the rest. I'm more or less curious as to what kind of pace I'm on. Going at this pace and with the ideas in my head, I would venture to say that the main conflict doesn't start until a bit after 20,000 words.
     
  2. seta
    Offline

    seta Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    2
    An article I read divided novels into 3 basic parts;

    1) The lead-in or setup

    2) The conflict

    3) The resolution

    - To put this into perspective, the article noted that when Luke discovered his aunt and uncle killed in Star Wars - this was the beginning of "part 2" - the big event which changes the MC's life forever.

    I'd say a good rule of thumb is less than 1/3 of the way through you should introduce the main conflict for your MC. Of course some novels don't really challenge the MC until after halfway through, but the lead up is very entertaining as well so it's not a big deal.

    What I hate is novels that have no tension for many chapters - like "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. It's just a lot of people sitting around talking about boring things to me. Of course I'm a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie... :)
     
  3. thabear637
    Offline

    thabear637 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2
    That makes sense.

    So it would actually appear that I could be on a good pace then...that feels good to know that :)

    Thank you very much!

    I'm like you in the sense I like action and conflict. For that reason I'm trying my best to ensure no chapter goes with out at least one of those elements.

    I'm introducing the characters, history, environment etc with them.

    For example, the very beginning of the novel is a sword fight :)
     
  4. UnknownBearing
    Offline

    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Void
    my advice is to spread as much of the conflict through the book as possible. i often like to introduce hints of the conflict early on in the story, so the reader has that in the back of his/her mind when it the major conflicts bursts on to the scene, guns blazing.

    of course, with the way i wirte, you can feel the rising action grow and grow and grow until you can never really be sure how far it's gonna go. you can sort of see that point where the reader may have stopped if he/she was writing it. and often you'll doubt, "is he actually going to go that far?" and then i do, and it's often extremely climactic. so the ultimate conflict is often very very close to the ultimate resolution.

    so i dont know if you like that kind of writing or not. but nevertheless, try to spread your conflict. it keeps the readers interested, and it seems like you're completely intent on doing just that. just keep it realistic. even in the calmer points of the story, try to keep some of the feel from tension. :D
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It really depends on the story. You may have a story in which there is a general threat woven in and out of the individual storylines, but the real conflict doesn't become clear until the story is nearing the climax. This can add a high degree of urgency to the conflict what it finally becomes clear. I have seen mysteries written this way, in which a large part of the story is attempting to figure out just WHAT the hell is going on - there is clearly more to the situation than meets the eye, but the real danger isn't clear until the protagonist finds himself or herself in mortal danger.
     
  6. thabear637
    Offline

    thabear637 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2
    thanks for the tips.

    I believe I am introducing small pieces of the big conflict now, actually. Little hints though. What I meant by after 20,000 was when a big part of the conflict occurs out in the open...which basically makes the MC start on his quest.

    I do..however have plenty of twists in the quest to make his quest change a few times :-D.

    And thanks Cog. So basically each story is different and as long as I'm weaving the story closer and closer to the climax and eventually get there and then to a resolution it doesn't really matter when the main conflict is introduced? That is, of course, as long as I'm building threat and hints along the way and not giving useless blabber.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Perzackly. As long as you have conflict and unanswered questions to keep the reader invested, you can keep the reader glued to the book.
     
  8. seta
    Offline

    seta Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    2
    One article I read suggested that individual crises are a good way to keep the tension up - and these events do not need to be directly related to the main problem.

    To exemplify this concept - I went thumbing through one of the Harry Potter books, and the page I landed on had Harry and Hermoine chatting about girls who were after Harry with love potions... or some such nonsense. Anyways, I doubt it was directly relevant to a "Half Blood Prince" - or whatever it was supposed to be about.

    It occurred to me at that point that the most enjoyable books I've ever read were chock full of mundane human trials. Girls, boys. Very regular and mundane things. Characters argue with each other over things and they run into every-day problems all the time.

    In my story, my MC's girlfriend broke up with him to offer him more "freedom". Even though the story is about aliens invading, I spent an entire chapter (albeit a short one) about his gf leaving him because he was miserable.

    Things like this give a story a more realistic human aspect.
     
  9. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Thabear637,

    I'd recommend that you look at some novels in the genre you're writing, focusing on the publishers you'd submit to (or work with your agent to submit to). How long does it take to get to the main conflict? Focus on authors who are early in their career, as authors who have been around a while nad have devloped a following of readers may be held to a different standard.

    Consider that if you're going to go through 1/3 of the novel before getting to the main conflict, it may be a problem. What is happening of consequence in the first 20,000 to 25,000 words that the reader has to know?

    What is included in the first 1/3 of the novel should be action and events tied into and leading up to the main conflict. It sounds like you're doing this from your description, but you also indicated that
    and including some conflict in each chapter.

    Examine your anticiapted readership and consider how much 'setting of the table' is needed, and how many appetizers will be appreciated before the main course is delivered?

    Terry
     
  10. wiggons
    Offline

    wiggons Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia
    Dont know if this helps, bit ive jumped right into the conflict really early on and used that to introduce the characters, land, history through the context of the conflict

    Above comments are really helpfull
     
  11. B-Gas
    Offline

    B-Gas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    14
    Sorry, double post.
     
  12. B-Gas
    Offline

    B-Gas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    14
    I say, start with the big conflict right from the start- or at least a fragment of what will become the big conflict. Many RPG video games start with the main characters doing something small and unimportant that actually threads rather nicely into the main quest; for example, Neverwinter Nights 2 starts with you assembling the militia and protecting your village against a very large invasion force, then segues into the reason for that invasion, which is a small fragment of silver, which must be recovered from a nearby marsh; the silver fragment is later revealed to be one of a set of Quest Coupons that you spend the rest of the game searching for. It's artful.

    Another example is the novella "At the Mountains of Madness," by H.P. Lovecraft, which starts with a very detailed and technical description of what was supposed to happen on the Antarctic mission in question. It introduces the main conflict right from the start- "We went to Antarctica, Something went Wrong (capital W) and it drove me Insane"- and then drags the reader through thirty pages of technical descriptions of the equipment, lists of degrees held by the various people involved, and generally avoiding the point. It's wonderful and gripping. Tekah-Li-Li!

    Start with some conflict, for damn sure, and make sure that whatever conflict you start with has something to do with the main conflict, whether the sovled problem shows up later to help with the main thing or ends up being a very bad idea in the long run. And thus, I can justify saying: start with the major conflict from right around scene one. Or possibly scene two, as is the case in my novel, as scene one happens to be a brief trauma-induced flashback to a simpler time. But bring the major conflict in right away, so that the characters spend as much time as possible solving or building up to the main problem.
     
  13. thabear637
    Offline

    thabear637 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2
    You guys have given me some things to think about.

    After some thought, I believe the majority of what is going on before the main conflict is introduced is pretty necessary. There are bits and pieces, I'm sure, that can be excluded. However, those bits and pieces can be deleted in the revision.
     
  14. DarrenW
    Offline

    DarrenW Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Glossop, UK
    Hello there - I wouldn't worry about word count yet - you can always edit out. Broadly speaking, whatever genre you are writing, there should be a surprse/conflict at the end of the beginning (about 1/4 into your book); one at the half way point (but worse than the 1st) and then an almost insurmountable one about 3/4 of thw way though. Hope this helps.
     
  15. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    It all depends on genre, firstly - each one has their own set of conventions and reader expectations, and you'd do well to think about what those might be in relation to your writing and how you fit with them (or don't).
    Besides that, I don't really think there's much need to deliberately introduce your main conflict at any particular point....I've read books where its set off in the first sentence, others where its hundreds of pages in. Bear in mind that conflict is what drives narrative...the great writing, the amazing characters and perfect dialogue are all good, but really, you're not going to hold the reader very long unless you create some tension, some drama, some conflict. Don't worry about how many "moments" of conflict you have (and, of course, conflict doesn't have to be obvious and external all the time), but rather about what is going on in your writing that is going to make the reader turn the next page.
     
  16. GrantG
    Offline

    GrantG New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2009
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Since this is my first post, I may be out of line suggesting this, but I personally think this is being over-analyzed. The only thing that should matter is whether it feels right or not. The last novel I wrote had over forty pages until the main conflict was introduced... I deleted every one of those pages and began with the main conflict.

    I could be wrong here, but a friend of mine said Fitzgerald (I THINK it was Fitzgerald, anyway) thought the majority of the "introduction chapters" should be left out of the second draft entirely. I didn't like that idea when I heard it several years ago, but as it just so happens, it totally works for me.

    Just don't think about it too hard. Worrying too much about whether or not it's normal seems to me to be a sure way to another false start.
     

Share This Page