One of the keys to a successful children’s story is conflict. What exactly is that? Do your characters have to be engaged in a knock down drag out fight? No, but one of the building blocks of a good story is a struggle of some sort. Usually, the main character has to be involved in the conflict you develop. Another word for a conflict is a problem that involves the main character. Why does it need to be the main character? Generally, the main character learns something important by solving his/her problem. The main character has to do something which will bring about the result that he/she wants.
Let’s look at some examples so you have a good picture of what I’m trying to convey.
Mary wants to audition for the part of the dancer in the school play. She’s already been studying dance for two years so she feels like she’s ready. But Sarah thinks she’s the best dancer in town so she keeps reminding Mary who is the best.
“Everyone in school knows I’m the best dancer. I always play the part of the dancer every year,” she declares, stamping her foot. “Besides, I’m the prettiest,” she adds, sticking her nose in the air.
Mary is intimidated so she quits and lets Sarah play the part. Even though there’s some conflict, Mary gives in so there’s no suspense in the story. Your readers will want suspense. They want something that will captivate them. Something that will keep those pages turning.
Now let’s suppose that Mary’s mom convinces her to try out for the part and see who does best. That would make things a little more exciting, but Mary didn’t solve the problem herself so that’s not the best solution. What if Mary stays awake wondering what to do? Finally, she decides to try out for the part and the director was so impressed by her performance that she got the part after all. This time, Mary learned something about herself. She learned that she had more talent than she thought. She also figured out that she never would have reached her goal if she’d given up. Moreover, she finds she’s more courageous than she thought, because she acted in spite of her misgivings.
Is there more than one kind of conflict? Yes, your character can have an external conflict where a person or situation, is preventing him/her from reaching the goal.(like the situation with Mary and Sarah). You may also have an internal conflict where the main character has to make a decision on his own so he/she is thinking about the choice to make. The internal conflict is always within yourself. For an example of what I mean, let’s say that Jane falls from her horse. Now her confidence is shattered. She’s convinced she can’t ride anymore. That’s the outer conflict. But inside, she blames herself for the fact that her horse was hurt in the fall so they missed the show that could have qualified them to compete in the state championships. If only she rode with more conviction, her horse wouldn’t have refused the jump. Now we have an internal and external struggle. Your readers will be anxious to see how Jane reacts. Does she overcome her fear? Does she give up riding altogether? Does she forgive herself so she can move forward and proceed with her riding career?
To summarize, be sure your story has these four ingredients for success:
I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about these keys to success and that they help you reach your goal of being an amazing author.