On this week’s episode, Holly Hunt sits down with Felicity Banks, author of Heart of Brass, and together, they talk about the First Conflict, the first problem a character faces on his or her journey. A review of Heart of Brass is included at the end.
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The first conflict is the reader’s first opportunity to see your character in action. Will they win, will they lose, will they run away?
These are all things that you need to think about when considering your first conflict, and what it should bring to the reader, both in terms of the character and your story? Will you hand the character a conflict they can overcome without a problem, or do you issue your character a challenge, something he will not defeat at first, but will come back to win?
Take the story of Peter Pan, for an example. The first conflict is in the offering of Neverland to Wendy and the boys. Their acceptance of the Pixie dust, to fly away from home and leave their parents and their troubles behind, is a test that they fail. But when they come upon the decision to return later in the story, to return home to England, they take it, and they help some of the other Lost Boys to right their own personal conflicts.
Don’t make the challenge too hard, or your characters may not be able to plausibly conquer it later. And remember that the first conflict doesn’t have to be related to the final conflict. Using Peter Pan as an example again, the final conflict is the showdown between the Pirates and the Lost Boys, culminating in the death of Captain Hook. The decision to right the wrongs committed by their first conflict – the Pixie dust – is a result of that final conflict, but not directly related to it.
Remember, keep it simple. The first conflict doesn’t need a million chess pieces wedged in a particular format to get underway – in fact, the more pieces in play at this stage, the less the audience is going to understand. Just keep to the basics and feel the story begin to roll on.