There are many instructional books on writing, most of which give us so many rules that it’s almost impossible to remember them all. Many writers say these rules are really only guidelines. One universal rule, though, is that young adult and adult novels (and TV shows and movies) need conflict on almost every page in some way or another. Another universal rule is that characters shouldn’t be too nice or easy to get along with. Both of these are true for most novels, but especially true for mystery, crime, thriller, and suspense novels, which I write.
My problem is that I’m a person who doesn’t enjoy conflict in real life. I’m a nice person who would rather keep conflict at a minimum. It’s natural for me to want my fictitious characters to be like me in that regard, but they can’t all be easy to get along with all the time, particularly the antagonist.
So, how do I, as an author, create the very things I try to avoid? It isn’t easy. I have to study people, do research, and try to put myself into the heads of each character I create. I have to know and understand them. How would he or she react? What would they be thinking? What motivates them? What makes them happy, sad, angry, stressed? What do they want? What do they avoid? Then, I have to ‘not’ give them what they want. I have to give them flaws, make them miserable, and test them every step of the way.
As I write this, it dawns on me that this conundrum that I face is the same kind of thing that I, as a writer, must force my characters to face. I suppose that fiction really is a reflection of life, in ways that I hadn’t really considered before.