Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday Writing Tip: Check for Cardboard Conflict

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, examine your novel’s conflicts and make sure they’re not flimsy as paper.

“Your scene needs conflict” is something writers hear all the time, and while it’s true, it’s also easy to throw in a conflict just to have one. Problem is, that conflict doesn’t serve the story or accomplish the things a good scene conflict is supposed to do.

Check your scenes for conflict, but also really look at each conflict. Is it something that’s truly a problem to overcome that will affect the story, plot, or character in some way, or is it simply a flimsy obstacle that lets you say, “Yes, there’s conflict here?”

For more on creating stronger conflict in your novel, try these articles:


  1. Thanks, Janice. What drew me here was the phrase, "cardboard conflict." It made me remember a cardboard dollhouse my brother and I created when we were kids: pretty outside but lifeless inside. Now if we could all create boxes (books) with real characters (cats?) and conflicts in them ...

    1. What a lovely analogy! It looks good, but it could also be torn down with an easy kick.