As a writer, one of the hardest things you’ll ever do is torture your character. While I say that, realize torture can come in many forms and isn’t always what we think of in our minds. Torture can be mental or physical and it can back your character into corners.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about about why I stuck my main character, Cassie, in therapy and how it broke the “mold” of heroines in mystery novels. Today I want to talk about backing your character into corners and how it adds to the conflict of your novel.
There are a few different types of conflict including “man vs. man” which is typically the main conflict I have in my novels. But when it comes to writing a 70,000 novel, you aren’t just limited to one type of conflict. Another one I use a lot is “man vs. self.” Well, in this case it would be “woman vs. self,” but you get the idea.
So today I want to talk about how this new book I’m plotting features an opening scene that literally backs my character into a corner (or a closet) and break down how many different conflicts can be added to this scene.
The book I’m currently plotting is Super Ordinary, which is about a thief who has to save a superhero. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but roll with it. It’s set in this dystopian world, so the world is harsh.
My main character, Lani, is the thief, attempting to rob a government building. She’s got a team with her and everyone has a specific job to do.
In the middle of this attempted robbery, Lani’s team cuts her out (she’s planning to do the same to them), and they leave her tied up to be found when the authorities. Right away we have a few different types of conflict.
Man vs. Man
Lani vs. her team is the most obvious one. They’re all thieves, trying to play one another, stealing from one another. Lani finds herself on the outside of the group, at war with her own team.
Man vs. Government/Society
This one is a little obvious too, at least in this essence. Man vs. government is always the struggle against government, but it comes in different ways. Lani is a thief, which means she’s more or less against the government automatically, but in this instance, she is trying to steal directly from the government.
Stealing from the government isn’t just “man vs. government,” it’s straight up middle-finger to the government.
Man vs. Self
This one isn’t as obvious in this scene, but after Lani is left to be found by the government, there’s a war within herself about things she could have done better and even a little bit of regret for what she did do.
Man vs. Self is always internal conflict. In fact, you go through man vs. self conflict in your own life, probably every single day.
Other Conflicts You Might Have
Man vs. Nature
This one is super relevant with the hurricanes we’ve had in the last few months – but this one is always the idea of how can your character overcome a natural disaster, or maybe she can’t.
Typically I’m not a fan of this one, but if the conflict fits your story, go for it!
Man vs. Fate
This one is another one that plays more into paranormal and fantasy (at least it feels like it for me). Can your character fight their own pre-destined fate?
So, now that we know conflict types, let’s talk about how we use those in our story, specifically when it comes to putting our characters into the corner.
You’re going to learn a lot about your character.
Cassie Morgan, from the Cassie Morgan Series, has gotten feistier and sassier as the series goes on. This is just a character development from all the shit she goes through. But in Super Ordinary, the main character Lani blows Cassie out of the water with her grit.
I always find that I write characters who are sassy and feisty and fighters in ways that I wish I could be.
You’ll See How Other People Respond
Will someone help your main character? Or is the person who pushed her in a corner doing so for some horrible reason?
Conflict is the major driving force of any story, and if you struggle with conflict – backing your character into a corner is always a fantastic way to develop some conflict. Someone somewhere will have to respond to your character’s actions.