Scene Structure: How to Write the Conflict [Novel Boot Camp #11]

Conflict is the backbone of a great scene. Without conflict, readers are likely to get bored and the scene might seem irrelevant. In this video I discuss how to write strong conflicts for your novel’s scenes that give a sense of momentum and excitement to the story.


Video Highlights

  • All proactive scenes should have conflict.
  • Conflict is not just something bad that happens. Conflict only occurs when an obstacle stands in the way of what the character wants.
  • Whether the character is able to achieve their goal for the scene or not, the conflict is still necessary.

Questions to Ask About Your Novel

Look at a few scenes in your novel. Is there a clear conflict?

Is there a true obstacle in the way of what the character wants or is the “conflict” really just something bad that happens to the character that’s irrelevant to the character’s journey? Make sure that each proactive scene includes a conflict that truly disrupts the character’s ability to achieve their goal or requires the character to take action in order to get what they want.

If you have any questions about conflict in scenes, please post them in the comments.

Workshop #2 peer critiques have been posted. Please don’t forget to critique at least five submissions!

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5 thoughts on “Scene Structure: How to Write the Conflict [Novel Boot Camp #11]

  1. Douglas Hazelrigg says:

    Any thoughts about the difference between obstacles that seem arbitrary, or random (and thus forced), and obstacles that have some relevance to the plot itself? One thing I liked about the Harry Potter series is that every obstacle had a specific, logical relevance to the plot

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      This is a really great question. I think I will try to answer it more extensively in a video. Do you mind if I credit the question to you in the video?

      There’s a fair amount to say on this topic, but my main advice is to plant the seeds of coming conflicts so they don’t come out of nowhere. If guards prevent a character from getting into a building, perhaps those guards made an appearance in an earlier scene where they prevented someone else from entering the building or perhaps the protagonist angered the guards in an earlier scene and now is paying the price. I hope this makes sense!

  2. Nicole L Ochoa says:

    Conflict, I love how you define it as an obstacle or barrier to the goal of the character in the scene. Again, I randomly chose three parts of my novel so see if I could identify the obstacle to the goal. I think I am getting close to what needs to be happening, but it will take a little more work to give my writing more clarity.

  3. Pam Portland (@TruckingWriter) says:

    I fell like this is the bulk what my novel needs most. Yes, the protagonist gets to a lot of places that she wants to visit, but what is really standing in her way is not the travel obstacles themselves (such as distance, cost, etc, although this can add a little bit of the story), but what is keeping the protagonist from relishing in the experience of reaching each destination. Is this enough conflict? That’s something I definitely will need to focus on while I am writing.

  4. Brett Mumford says:

    You definitely shone a light onto several weak spots in some of my early chapters. I think I was focusing too much on establishing context, and never considered how this would be perceived by the reader, other than how I wanted them to perceive it. Thanks.

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