Is Your Conflict Contrived?

So, I’ve been judging some contests this year, and I keep noticing a trend: contrived conflict. I’ve written an example:

June hurried into the store and stopped short. There he was. Mason Jar, the man she’d loved since he rescued her dog when they were in the sixth grade. Now she had a killer after her, and the hero-turned-cop stood staring at her with his dark grey eyes. She stared back. “Mason. Why are you here?”

He cleared his throat, muscles bunching when he stood. “I saw the police report you filed about a stalker. I want to help.”

She straightened her shoulders. The guy had gone off to the army and left her to finish her last year of high school alone. Too late to help. “I don’t need your help.”

What the heck? If I have a psycho stalker after me and a big, strong, police man who has always been a good guy wants to help… I’D SAY YES. Not NO just because the plot needs a conflict. There has to be a HUGE reason she says no…not just that he left for the army.

I think this logic lapse is in line with the TSTL scenario (too stupid to live). This is when the heroine tugs up her slingback straps and runs into the forest by herself because she thinks the murderer went that-a-way. Wonderful action in a late night slasher movie…not so much in a novel.

Or she hears footsteps behind her in the rough part of town and continues into the dark alley because her car is just a block away and she forgot her receipts. If I hear footsteps, I’m running into the nearest store screaming for help and not the nearest alley of death. Logic.

Sure, books need conflict. But the conflict has to flow naturally from the characters and the situations at hand. Stop and ask yourself: If I were in that situation…what would I really do?