Leah started this massacre. (Major congrats on her recent signage with Rosemary Stimola!) Before me was Abi and after me is Terri.
So here's the question: What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters?
Hmm...torture. The poor things.
When I first started writing, this was really hard for me. Thus, my first novel had absolutely no conflict. It was boring. I didn't want to hurt the people I'd created. I liked them too much.
As an avid reader, I realized that all fiction has to have conflict to make it interesting. I attended conferences where authors and experts spoke on getting your character in something so deep they could never get out.
I rewrote my book.
It still didn't have enough conflict. Sure, more "bad things" happened, but still I didn't feel like my MC was in this life-or-death-oh-my-freaking-heck-what-do-I-do-now? moment.
That's where I needed her to be.
So I toyed with some more ideas that could bring her to the point of no return. That's how I envision good conflict to be. Like in that movie, Back to the Future 3, where they've got that broken down windmill and once the DeLorean-turned-time-machine passes that point, there is no turning back. Yeah, like that. You've got to bring your character to that point. And beyond! (Man, it's movie Thursday today. Major kudos if you can name that last one.)
I rewrote said novel again. I'm still not sure I've tortured the girl enough, so I shelved her. Take that! How's that for torture? How do you like me now? Yeah, don't mess with me, fictional people. I might just kill you all. Or at least file you away quietly on my hard drive. Where no one will ever find you...mwa, ha, ha!
I've broken down "torture" into several categories. Not everyone fits the box, mind you. (That could be their conflict!) And a lot of things are just personal issues people have to deal with.
Here are some things that have happened to various characters in various stories in various stages of completion. (Side note: I don't do these things to my characters on purpose. They just sort of happen. I really do feel bad about it...most of the time.)
1. Put her in a car she can't drive. She can't shift. Failed Driver's Ed three times. Is terrified of driving at all, let alone with the magical mafia trailing her. (Personal Issues)
2. Made one of her bestest friends a spy. Who only reveals himself when she's all alone and her only help is half a world away. (Betrayal)
3. Made her boyfriend her brother. Yeah, that one was gross. But it caused a lot of conflict. (Disgusting/Personal Issues/Betrayal)
4. Took memories that would have really been useful. Like really, really good to know. (She became a traitor cuz she couldn't remember anything...What? You're not my bff? The humanity!)
5. Killed the only witness to a crime my MC was accused of committing. (Murder)
6. Had my MC kill her friend in a bout of uncontrolled anger. Nasty, that was. (Murder, Personal Issues)
7. Then there's the standard stuff--bombs, long-lost fathers coming back, finding out your lover is really your enemy, losing your job/most loved pet/something else you can't live without, getting trapped in a realm where you don't belong, the list goes on and on.
But I find that the most conflict falls under murder, betrayal, traitorous acts, and/or personal issues the MC has. That's why it's important to know your characters. What will hurt them the most? Their loved one kissing another girl? The death of Fluffy the giant anteater? What will cause the most pain, put them in the worst situation? Wait. That's another post for another day. Or another chain. Or did we do that one already?