I recently read your article on writing a character-driven story (I really enjoyed it, and it helped clarify my ideas quite a bit!) and realized that the fantasy YA series I am writing–especially the first book–is mostly character driven. From my browsing of bookstores, it seems that most popular fantasy YA books have strong throughlines of external conflict complementing or driving the plot. Though I definitely have external plotlines, they are mostly in service of my character’s internal journey and might not be considered super exciting on their own.
Do you think that incorporating external drama into my series–given the genre–is necessary, and if so do you have any tips, tricks, or advice on how to do it? Thanks so much!
Whether you need a more external conflict probably depends on the nature of your character’s story. Having one can be very helpful for a couple reasons:
- Novels are very long stories, and when readers are given the same type of conflict scene after scene, it can get tiring. Have different types of conflict allows the writer to switch things up.
- A lot of emotional stories – particularly romances – have trouble putting in enough important plot points to fill a whole novel. Readers may start asking, “Why don’t they just get together/solve their problems already?” When the dilemma facing the character just doesn’t take a novel-length period of time to solve, adding another conflict allows the writer to essentially shorten the length of the personal storyline.
So if your character-driven story has a lot of variety built in and plenty of things that can happen without going back and forth or otherwise repeating itself, you may not need another conflict. But having one might really help if you find you have a muddlesome middle or are otherwise struggling to keep things interesting.
Please note that your external conflict doesn’t have to be full of explosions and fight scenes. A relationship arc, a mystery, or a personal quest could also add variety to your conflicts and help you fill the story out.
For more on this, I recommend my post on dual plot structures.