Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What Adding Conflicts Late In Your Book Really Means

If you have ever done competitive debate, you may be familiar with the phrase "New in 2AR." This simply meant that a debate team, after battling for some time, decides, after it is past a point that the negative can no longer say anything, to add new information into the debate. This approach simply doesn't work. I will say the same holds true for authors who try to do this same thing in their stories. Let me explain.

I am reading a New Adult story right now that really had be going for a while. The conflict between the hero and the heroine was really strong and they had me going. And then, about half of the way through the book, the author solved the conflict. There was simply nothing more that needed to be done. She had the reader at that Happily Ever After moment right there and then. Nothing more was going to stop the characters from getting together. But, as I said, we were only half of the way through the book. So what did the author do? She threw in "another conflict" from out of the blue.

Did this new conflict now create a barrier for the hero and heroine? Sure, but inserting this plot line, AFTER the main plot had been created and solved came across as a trivial plot device to simply keep the story going. I am sure there was this panic moment of "Oh no, I finished the book, but I still have another 35,000 words to go!!"

Now let me say, there is nothing wrong with having this second plot be a part of the story, IF, the author had planted those seeds much earlier in the story. Show us that the characters are really struggling to come together on "two fronts". For this author (and the editor) this could have been an easy solution and would have really added a depth to the story line. The reader would have been struggling as they read of thinking, "If they fix the A-Plot what will happen with the B-Plot?"

As I write this, I also can see how she is going to run into this problem a second time in the story (No, I have not finished the story yet). The resolution to the new plot is coming far too quick and we are barely at the three-quarter mark. But in this case, I do see her throwing in one more conflict from a character that showed up in the early pages of the book and has completely disappeared. If she does this (which I hope she doesn't) the reader will be left with the thought of "Really? We're going to do this again??"

Again, the solution would be easy. If she wants to bring in that character from the beginning of the story, then we need to see that person much more throughout the book. You can't just mention the character, forget the person and then spring the character on the reader in the end.

What we are talking about here is plot layering. This is simply the idea of weaving multiple, but interrelated, plots together. For the author that I am reading, this is not plot layering but stacking. Plot A, then Plot B, the Plot C.

So, if you find yourself reaching that solution far too soon in the story, don't just "add stuff" to the end of the story as filler. You need to go back to page 1, and think of how you can weave in another plot line, while at the same time, extend the word count.

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