Conflict is Change

I recently finished reading Holly Lisle’s How To Write Page-Turning Scenes.  I learned a valuable lesson from this book.

I’m been having problems with the idea of conflict in my current work-in-progress.  In my mind, conflict is fighting and arguing.  Conflict is confrontation.  Conflict is WAR.

Turns out this isn’t the whole truth.

Turns out, in fiction, conflict is, quite simply, change.

Fighting, arguing, confrontation, war…these can all be conflict.  But conflict is not fighting.


Anything that reveals a change in a scene represents conflict.  If one character changes another’s mind, preferably through skill or competence, that’s conflict.

A guy trying to pick up a girl (even if she’s attracted to him) is conflict.  If he succeeds, that’s change.  If he fails, that’s change.

The objective is to come out of a scene with something changed.

I don’t know why I didn’t see this before, other than I have a mental block when it comes to conflict.  In my own life, I avoid conflict like the plague.

Or at least I used to.

I’ve always been leery about raising topics of discussion that might be construed as confrontational.  As a result, I had a hard time setting boundaries and actually found myself staying in several relationships well past their expiration date because of the fear of conflict.

(None of the guys in those relationships was mean or violent…I just had this overwhelming desire not to rock the boat.  Personal problem, I know.  I’m much better today.)

This spilled over into my writing and made it difficult for me to write confrontational scenes.  What if my hero and heroine had a fight and broke up?  Where’s my novel go then?  Yikes!

By changing the definition of conflict in my head from “confrontation / fighting / arguing” to “change”, I’ve got a better handle on how to introduce or pump up the conflict in my novel.  And this definition revision could come in handy in real life, too.  You never know.

There are days when I wonder how I can fit everything into the hours I’m awake.  Day job.  Work on Book 1.  Preparation for Book 2.  Craft reading.  Blog posts.  Keep up with social media.  Eat.  Sleep.  Chores.

Just when I think something has to give; that I have to sacrifice something to make it through the day, I read a craft book like this one and it gives me a whole new perspective on an issue that was causing me, you guessed it, internal conflict.

I have no fear of change.  I’ve made a million changes in my life, most for the good, some not so good, but each and every change was one worth making.  I’m a better person because of change.  I believe there’s always something redeeming in change, even when the change itself seems like a bad thing.

Change is good.

I can write stories filled with change.

What are your thoughts on conflict in fiction?  Do you agree that conflict is change?


5 thoughts on “Conflict is Change

  1. Tori…give yourself some time. The fearless thing comes more easily with age. When I was 25, I picked and moved from California to Austin, Texas by myself. I knew one person when I got there but knew many within a few short months. Eight years later, I moved to Houston. Five and a half years later, I moved to Chicago. Each time, I knew one person in the new location. My approach was always “what’s the worst that will happen?” The answer — maybe I’d hate the new city — was the worst I could ever come up with and that never occurred. Moving taught me that change is an adventure. Find something, even if it’s small, and view it as an adventure. You may just find that approaching things in that way teaches you that fear of change gets in the way of the fun. 🙂


  2. I do think that conflict is more than just disagreements between two people. It could be as simple as, “oh, should I wear the black strappy pumps, or the gray kitten heel shoes? The pumps make my calves look shapely, but the kitten heels are sooooo comfy…” It’s shallow, but that’s conflict, right?

    I also agree that change can be a type of conflict. It can be because of a choice that has to be made – a choice where no matter what is done, someone will get hurt. It’s more of an internal struggle than an outright argument with someone (although the argument could ensue depending on the choice.)

    Sorry, I think I’m just rambling now…. I have every confidence that you can write stories with loads of change 🙂


    • Janna…See!! That’s it! Your shoe analogy is perfect as an example of conflict, but it’s one I never would have thought of before reading Holly Lisle’s book.

      Of course, I can’t say if that has to do with my mental conflict block or the fact that I’m going to choose the shoes with the 3″ heels every time… 🙂


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