How external conflict links to POV character goals is important because when it’s done well, it creates tension in the story, and tension in the story keeps the reader reading!
What You Need To Know About Conflict
First, let’s be clear about what conflict and tension are.
Conflict is the action that is actually happening in a scene. A physical fight, an argument, a battle to win a race.
Tension is the threat of something bad happening.
Next, let’s define external and internal conflict in the context of your POV characters.
External conflict is the struggle between your POV character and another character or some other force that is plotting against them such as nature, technology, or society.
Internal conflict is the struggle within a character’s mind.
The most important aspects of both types of conflict are they must create tension and be related to the plot.
When you choose a point of view character for a scene, you promise your readers they will experience the scene from that character’s perspective.
The POV Character Goal
A character goal is simply what a character wants. Goals drive the story forward.
Without a character goal, there’s nothing for the reader to root for or against, no meaningful obstacle to put in the character’s way—and no reason for your reader to keep reading. A scene where the POV character doesn’t have a goal will lack tension. And without tension, the reader gets bored.
Character goals drive the story forward. Without a goal, what is the character doing? Answer: Not much. Meaning: Why would anyone read the story?
How External Conflict Links to POV Character Goals
When you know the goal, you can start thinking about all the ways the character will fail at achieving the goal, what obstacles you can put in the character’s way, and how the character will feel about failing. And this is where external conflict comes in.
Tension will excite the reader and entice them to keep reading. Without tension, a reader may put the book down. When a character the reader is cheering for wants something badly and it’s unclear if they will get it, it causes tension. Tension also occurs when a character readers care about is in danger or someone /something they love is in danger.
You probably noticed I mentioned twice that the reader must care about the character for tension to exist. That’s because it’s vitally important.
Want To Delve Deeper Into The Topics?
Before you figure out how to use external conflict, Choosing a POV Character is a Big Decision you have to come to terms with. And you’ll have to choose the type POV you will write in.
Check out this blog, for a deeper look at the difference between tension and conflict.
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