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So You Want to Write Your First Novel
By: Peter Gilboy
You’ve heard that each of us has a novel in him or her. But why is that so? Because we have conflict in our lives and in ourselves too.
We wouldn’t read a book about a man watching TV. But what about man watching TV when his neighbor storms in a throws an axe through the TV screen? Conflict.
Nor would we read about a man simply driving through the desert. But what about a man driving through the desert when a truck driver terrorizes him around every bend? That’s what happened in the film Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg and acted superbly by Dennis Weaver.
But external conflict is not enough. Internal conflict makes a better story. The man who is watching TV when an axe goes thrown the screen is a pacifist, and now a very angry one. Yikes! Internal conflict. Or, the man terrorized by the truck driver has always been a coward. Will he rise to the occasion now?
Conflict doesn’t have to be violent: A father believes his daughter is marrying the wrong person; a wife has to know for sure whether her husband is running around; the high school student must choose between being moral and flunking the test that will assure his admittance to the best college.
What’s called “the arc of the character” means that the character has to change in order to overcome the conflict. Only a few characters in stories undergo no moral or emotional change. James Bond is one. Superman is another. They battle external conflicts, while internally they are unperturbed and unconfused. Cool dudes both of them.
But your story will probably not have a Superman or James Bond. It will be realistic, which means it will have both external and internal turmoil. Like Batman. He fights evil just like James Bond and Superman, but at the same time he’s on a mission, haunted by the death of his parents, a death he did not or could not stop. Batman is dark, depressed, and haunted. He is compelled to do what he does because his past influences his psychological and emotion state.
I’m often told, “Man, do I have a story for you!” A story, yes, but is there only external conflict?
You want your characters to face moral, psychological, or emotional dilemmas within their external conflict. When you have that, you have your story. You’ll have a character everyone will recognize because those same internal conflicts are within each of us too.
Choose your characters according to their external and internal conflicts. Now you have your novel. Get writing!
Peter Gilboy is the Author of Madeleine’s Kiss, soon to be out on Amazon. You can see his website at www.PeterGilboy.com.