Keep your protagonist’s friends close and their ‘frenemies’ closer. This is the key to great conflict in novels. Imagine that character A and character B were great friends until a guy came between them, but there was no conflict in their friendship as a result? They continued talking, drinking coffee (or liquor) together, going out bowling and never once got in a fight where they are yelling at the top of their lungs or pulling each other’s ponytails? (Let’s face it, women these days don’t fight like that in real life. We women are far too sophisticated in our thinking, Sadly however, on the page and on the big screen, these are some of the behaviours exhibited by female characters through conflict in the storyline. Sucks, doesn’t it ?
I much prefer the conflict in literary novels like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, or for the screen, almost any film Angelina Jolie has appeared in has appealed to me as storylines exhibiting great plot lines acted out by a female character. Conflict breeds drama. Without drama and conflict, stories and movies often suck.
When considering how to bring conflict into your protagonist’s life ask yourself, what is the biggest obstacle that I could put in my character’s path that the protagonist could resolve? Write it in your story. It is possible you may pick a problem that even as the author you find insurmountable to write your character out of but with time and persistence, you will find a way to resolve it. Just don’t resolve it right away. Let the character come close to finding a resolution, and then drop another bomb.
What I love about the idea of ‘frenemies’ in literature is that the antagonist and the protagonist are often so close they can feel the breath on the other’s face and not for a minute know that they are about to be screwed over, locked up, abducted etc…
Show your readers how the ‘frenemy’ of your protagonist really feels through dialogue with other characters, through their actions and behaviour in your written word, and through exhibiting, where possible, the point of view from the omniscient narrator.
How much conflict you put into your story is up to you but keep in mind, if your story is all roses and sunshine, no matter how great you may be at writing, people won’t flock to it.