Prose from the Pros #3: Stephanie Meyer
When you write you want to grab and hold your reader’s attention. How can you accomplish this? Maybe add a romance. Just about every novel contains a love story. Make the romance between two teenagers and you might be on to something.
The unknown territory and innocence of young love creates a feeling empathized by all readers. Intensify the attraction by adding complications of unrequited love and life or death situations. Throw in a few supernatural beings (i.e., vampires, shape-shifters and human/vampire hybrids) for a delicious twist and you have Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling Breaking Dawn, the fourth and last novel of the YA series, Twilight.
Are we really suckers for love? No. Well, maybe. But you can attribute the novel’s bewitching power to conflict. The drama provides the driving force. As a reader you find yourself unable to stop reading in hopes of satiating your need to know the outcome of a character's problem. It can be as simple as a character satisfying hunger or as complicated as fighting to save his or her life.
As a writers, you want to harness this power. You want your readers to make it to the last page. Besides snazzy sentence structure and jumping-off-the-page characters, conflict helps create a thrilling page-turner. So today, we will analyze conflict in Meyer’s paranormal romance.
Conflict takes on two roles: internal and external.
The internal conflict, character vs. self, manifests as an inner struggle. The shape-shifting Quileute Jacob must work through his hatred towards his natural enemy: vampires. His unrequited love for Bella and oath to protect human life forces Jacob to set aside his differences. Although the sickeningly sweet smell of Edward and his family all but drives him crazy, he won’t let it keep him from saving Bella's life.
One of Bella’s internal conflicts comes later in the novel. Her daughter Renesmee is in danger of destruction by the vampire government, the Volturi. She’s torn between lying to her husband and protecting her child. The reader is privy to her innermost thoughts. They watch her view the problem from every possible angle before she decides.
The external conflict includes character vs. character, fate, society and nature. Nature sits the bench in this novel (check out Eclipse for a glimpse of nature conflict). The outside influences create the hurdles the characters face. Bella protects her unborn child against her husband and best friend’s attempt to terminate the pregnancy. The baby slowly killing her tortures them. She enlists the help of her sister-in-law to protect herself and the baby.
Next, character vs. fate. Jacob defies the alpha leader of his pack by defecting. Soon, two others break away from the pack to join him. He fights their allegiance. He fights his alpha leader birth rite. He fights his fate. Most characters avoid a life they are born into by running away or handing it over to someone who covets it. But the thing is, you cannot escape your fate. Eventually, Jacob accepts his position of authority, and stands strong as the alpha leader of his new pack.
The last external conflict is character vs. society. The society consists of a group of people with a collective mind set standing in opposition of the main character. In the case of the Twilight series, the Volturi act as this threat. The vampire government believes a law was broken and seeks justice. The law: no child vampires. They don’t know Bella’s daughter is a hybrid, so she must protect Renesmee. Bella’s vampire family, Jacob’s pack and other vampires stand with her against the Volturi in the novel's culminating battle.
Giving your characters conflict to resolve provides the drama that entertains your readers. The basics remain the same: internal and external conflict; character vs. self, character, fate, society and nature. Your imagination brings them to life.
What conflicts show up in your writing?