Today I want to take a brief look at three patterns of conflict: Static, Jumping, and Slowly Rising.
Lajos Egri, a Hungarian born writer, and later teacher of Creative Writing suggests that “Conflict which fails to rise is static. Conflict which rises too quickly is Jumping.”
What seems to work best in a conventional story is the third pattern, “Slowly Rising”.
But wait! You say. What about stories that start with high and steady conflict?
Fair question. Ask yourself first, is all action conflict? Even if the action in your story is a conflict of sorts, is it THE conflict of the story? …or is it just the world picture?
We have been forever spoiled and changed by the movies we see every day. The action movies typically use static action. In this instance static means a high and un-changing level of action and conflict. A movie—or more importantly, a novel—about a single battle in a war might fall into this category.
When we read a story that starts mildly, spends time introducing characters and hinting at conflict, then suddenly explodes across the pages into a high, and static conflict, you see the second pattern. Jumping conflict.
Our goal should be an early introduction of conflict, with the introduction being more of a hint or suggestion than a slap in the face. Allowing your conflict to build before a powerful action scene takes your reader along, building emotionally, developing characters, scenes and plot bits.
It is hard not to allow movies to be our instructor in this. They are big, fast, powerful, compelling and designed to instantly whisk us away.
I challenge you to think of how conflict is presented in your top three favorite books. Remember, however, that the “hook” you use to capture your reader isn’t necessarily violence, or hard conflict. Hints and suggestions are very powerful.
The best stories happen equally on the page and in the mind of the reader.