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Who’s causing trouble in your story?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

What! You ask. Why trouble? Why would I need anyone to do this in a book? Have you ever heard that books are driven by conflict? This word conflict means that all books are driven by things that go wrong, not things that go right. If everything went your way it wouldn’t be a very exciting story would it?

‘Why aren't crazy people content to take over, like, one town? It always has to be the whole word.’ James Patterson, Angel One key way of creating conflict is to use a character that challenges you. In fact, all of the characters in a memoir should challenge you. All books need a character like this in some shape or form. In a novel, these antagonists are cut and dried and form the basis of all plotting. But how does this work when you are writing about yourself, an idea, or your expertise? What if there wasn’t anyone obvious who caused trouble or challenged you? You are not writing a novel, but you still need to find them. But from within your own life. Most antagonists from your life are not cut-and-dried baddies or evil people, but simply people who challenge you, the status quo, or your ideals or journey. Sometimes you do have a clear and obvious villain. like the kidnapper, an abusive father, compulsive liar, cheating wife, gambling and coke-snorting ex or your corrupt business partner. But most autobiographic writers do not have villains to portray, just plain disagreeable people. Disagreements, miscommunication, moral muddles, wrong-headedness and incompatible goals provide enough conflict without needing an outright baddie. Most often the people who challenge you are just regular people. And often they are family. In my second book, Can your Relationship Survive Your Children (And Other Passion Killers); the antagonists were the rug rats themselves. So who are the characters (or clients) in your book that can create a level of conflict?

  1. They are known as the villain or antagonist, but may not be evil at all

  2. They must be a person, ideally a whole load of them.

  3. They cannot be an idea, the weather, a company, or your own alter ego or personal demons

  4. They have goals in direct conflict with your own

  5. They must be able to fight a good fight against you

  6. They challenge you (and perhaps make you stronger, better, or clearer about your own path)

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