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Per the Weekly Topic Challenge Suggestion guidelines...

Topic: "How do you balance the amount of conflict in a story?"

  • How do you figure out at what point you're just keeping the lovers apart arbitrarily, or someone's stubbornness is out of character?
  • Where is the line between the delicious frisson of Unresolved Sexual Tension and the remote-throwing frustration of "Would you two just shag and get it over with already?!"

  • How many farewells can you have before it starts to feel like the end of Return of the King?

  • How many times can a bad guy jump out from behind yet another corner before the horror becomes parody?
  • How many obstacles should the hero(es/ine/s) face? What constitutes "too easy for the hero(es/ine/s)"?

  • What happens when your beta readers say that you resolved a plot line too quickly, but you don't know how to stretch it out without padding it?

Tag: plot

Argument: Young or beginning writers in particular make things too easy for the protagonists. On the other hand, we've all seen the romcom which has dragged on too damn long, keeping the leads apart because otherwise we'd have Short Show Syndrome. So there's a balance to be struck. I think it would be useful to have pointers (particularly from published writers, ::ahem::Kate::ahem::Ralph::) on figuring out what's enough conflict to be interesting and keep the story moving forward, but not so much that the reader becomes exhausted or frustrated or bored.

  • Sorry, Lauren - I think this topic seems primed to get a lot of "it depends" and "get feedback and see what works" responses. Striking balance is a delicate and subjective process; it also requires familiarity with the piece at hand. I don't see what kind of advice we can give on this subject without encouraging crippling formulism. – Standback Feb 4 '12 at 19:33
  • +1 I like it. @Standback, that's what we do for 90% of the questions anyway ;) – John Smithers Feb 4 '12 at 20:54
  • @Standback: I think some of these have more concrete answers. For example, I think two "Boo!"s after the bad guy is supposed to be dead is enough. One is typical, two is unexpected. Three is overkill (heh). – Lauren Ipsum Feb 5 '12 at 1:35
  • @JohnSmithers: Yeah, and look how well the site's doing with 90% of its questions being of that type... It's not off-topic, but I don't want to encourage it. – Standback Feb 5 '12 at 10:29
  • Well, @Standback, I would say we are doing rather well with these questions. We need more questions, but the existing ones are not the problem. Over 1000 visits a day with just 1.4 new question is not that bad. – John Smithers Feb 6 '12 at 9:33
  • @JohnSmithers: Alas, I disagree. On all counts. Well, except "we need more questions". – Standback Feb 6 '12 at 10:24

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