12 Days of Planning Your Novel: Creating Conflict Through Character Motivation

You've got a great start to your novel outline but you need some more scenes. Using character motivation to create conflict is a great way to do this.

Wow, here we are at day six in my twelve day novel planning series already! I hope you have been enjoying the posts so far and are gleaning some useful tips. This series is intended to prepare you to start working on your novel during Christmas break (if you get one), however, you can use these tips to get started anytime.

You don’t have to take twelve days to go through the series. I created the series this way to make it completely doable even if you have a day job and you’re writing your novel on the side. But if you have more time, by all means, complete as many steps as you like each day.

Up to this point, I’ve covered:

Determining what you will write about,

Figuring out what you need to research,

Creating characters,

Understanding the difference between story and plot, and

Starting your outline.

If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably got some interesting characters and the main scenes you need to include in your novel based on the genre you’re writing. This is a great start, but if you’re going to write a full length novel, which I hope you will, you’re going to need a lot more scenes!

Today I’m sharing my favourite way to come up with ideas for all the connecting scenes in your novel—conflict! Like many people, in real life I generally shy away from conflict, but it always rears its ugly head eventually. Your characters will need to experience this too.

Conflict is a gold mine of material when it comes to thinking about your connecting scenes. Here are a few ways you can create conflict in your novel.

Next in my twelve days of planning a novel series is creating conflict through character motivation. Use this as a way to create additional scenes in your novel outline.

Character Motivation

This is one of the easiest ways to create conflict. Your main characters should have an overarching goal that is part of the main plot, so they are trying to accomplish this goal by the end of your story. But, your characters will likely have other goals too. These can be personal or professional.

Stumbling Blocks

Your characters aren’t going to achieve all their goals right away, otherwise, you won’t have much of a plot. It’s your job to set up roadblocks for them and create difficult circumstances they need to find a way out of. Your characters’ goals can be internally motivated or externally motivated or both. The more you put your characters through, the more you’ll have to write about.

Change and Growth

By the end of your novel, your characters will have accomplished their goals or not. Or maybe they’ve only accomplished some of them. Either way, your main characters must change in some way by the end of the story.

Since I’m publishing this in December, let’s talk about Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch. The Grinch’s goal is to ruin Christmas and he has some obstacles to overcome (mainly logistics) in order to do that. On a physical level, he reaches his goal, but the Whos block him from feeling emotionally satisfied because they don’t care that he stole all their stuff. They’re going to celebrate Christmas anyway. That’s when the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas and we see him experience his big change.

Of course, I’m simplifying here, but hopefully that gives you an idea of how you can use conflict, character motivation, and character change to generate additional scenes for your novel.

I hope you’ll join me for my next post where I’ll be sharing another tip to help you come up with additional scenes.

Go brainstorm some more scene ideas based on your characters’ goals and what’s going to get in their way. Be sure to let me know in the comments how your novel planning is going.