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?

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5 thoughts on “Is Your Conflict Contrived?”

  1. Brinda says:

    I think she said no because his name is Mason Jar. lol… Great example of a definite lapse in logic!

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    Right on, Rebecca! When you say “Stop and ask yourself: If I were in that situation…what would I really do?” You’re spot on.

    Happy Friday!

  3. Sayde Grace says:

    Are you trying to tell me something?:)

  4. I’ve just finished judging a two contests and I had this problem in a lot in the entries I judged. That, and not knowing where to start the story. BUT we all started somewhere and believable conflict is easy to fix, your voice and technique is harder.

  5. Brooklyn Ann says:

    YES, this!!! I have a big issue with contrived plots in books I read. And the main part where it usually occurs is with the hero and heroine…Sometimes I have trouble with that in my first drafts, either that or they get along a little too well and things get boring.