Is a scene in your novel boring you, so you just know it will bore your reader?
Or maybe you’re unhappy with a line of description or dialogue or characterization.
That’s good. It shows you’re thinking reader-first and realize all writing is rewriting. I still labor over every sentence, despite the decades I’ve been doing this.
This is what we do.
It happens to every writer.
That alarm that goes off in your head is crucial to your success, and it’s dangerous to ignore it.
Don’t try to convince yourself:
“Maybe my reader won’t find this boring…”
“Maybe it’s okay because action is coming soon…”
The fact is, your misgivings over your own prose are multiplied in your reader.
If you’re bored, your reader is asleep.
If you chuckle, your reader will howl.
If you choke up, your reader will weep. Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
So, what’s the fix?
Believe it or not, you’ll find the secret by watching the news.
The Secret Ingredient in All Compelling Stories
Why do news shows air an overwhelming amount of bad news?
Because it sells—it intrigues us and makes us want to know more.
That should be encouraging to you if you’re a nonfiction writer. A fiction technique that can enliven your prose? Conflict.
That doesn’t mean your story can’t be upbeat and positive. Overcoming adversity and conflict is always a great theme. But the reader must see the downside to appreciate the payoff.
Whenever you feel too little is happening and your scene seems to lie flat, inject conflict, opposition. Nothing is more boring than characters agreeing with each other.
Conflict Is the Engine of Fiction
Maybe a character says, “This is a great day, and I’m happy to be here with you.”
Frankly, that’s the kind of conversation I like to start in real life, and I love it when the other person agrees. Avoid the temptation to let that happen in your writing.
Rather, have the other character respond, “Oh, sure. You’d say that.”
That’s certain to get your reader’s attention.
The other character can’t let that go. Where did it come from? “Are you being sarcastic? Why would you say that?” And the conflict has been triggered.
I’d keep reading, wouldn’t you? Get them arguing and all of a sudden, people are turning the page to find out what’s going on.
There are myriad ways to inject conflict, so don’t hold back. The more you inject, the more compelling your story will be.
Make Your Reader Wonder What’s Going On
In real life we want peaceful, easy relationships. But conflict keeps us reading.
Tell me in the comments how you plan to inject conflict into your work-in-progress.