Drama entices us--in stories, that is. Whether we are watching a movie or reading a book, it is conflict which holds our attention. As readers we seek it, as writers we must incorporate it into our stories if we want people to read our books.
Naturally, levels of drama are going to vary, depending on the seriousness or light- heartedness of the story.
If we’re watching an episode of “Seinfeld,” the conflict will be playful. For example, when George’s fiancée Susan befriends Elaine who is merely a friend to him, his “two worlds” begin to collide. He doesn’t want his “couple relationship” to intermix with his “friends relationships.” He’s got a problem to resolve if he wants to maintain a status quo in his everyday life. Fans of “Seinfeld” find such drama very funny, but, to the characters, their conflicts are quite serious. Without drama, even comedy would be less compelling.
Like most writers I use drama in a plethora of ways, varying the intensity as required by the story line. For example, in “Stolen Son,” due to be released in paperback for the first time and re-released in e-book in May, conflict runs high. In this contemporary romance, a widower discovers that his late wife had stolen a baby and arranged for an illegal adoption. Being a man of integrity he wants to set things right, but he can’t just turn his five-year-old son over to a woman he doesn’t know. Before he does anything, he must get to know her and make sure she’s a good woman. He falls in love with her in the process, so now what is he going to do? If he tells her the truth, he could lose everyone he loves. Drama--from here it only increases.
In my other May release, “Kelly and the Candidate” the basic conflict is at lower level.
Kelly, a reporter who intensely dislikes politicians, finds Brett, a candidate for governor whom she is writing about, very attractive. Brett, who intensely dislikes reporters, finds Kelly quite irresistible. However, the complications in their relationship reach very high points of drama at several places throughout the story. In one case, Kelly’s goal is to do everything she can to find a major front-page story on squeaky-clean, boring, third-party candidate Brett. Once she finally discovers her high-concept scandal, she’s in love with him, and she must choose between hurting him and doing her job.
Well-written stories, comedic or dramatic, maintain a level of drama throughout. Once one conflict is resolved, another ensues.
Follow the continuing drama in this episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” Watch conflict build with each decision the character makes.
Beaver’s father gives him money to get a hair cut so he’ll look nice for the Christmas pageant. He’s made a habit of losing money recently, and his father warns him not to lose it. Beaver loses the money. If he doesn’t get the haircut, his father will find out. He gives himself a haircut to cover his mistake. It looks pretty bad so his brother Wally tries to improve it. He makes it worse. They wear stocking hats, thus expanding the cover up. Drama builds as one bad decision leads to another throughout this episode. Viewers enjoy a hilarious half hour, but the poor characters are really suffering. The boys don’t want their parents to be upset with them, and the parents, upon learning what has happened, face great embarrassment by their “angel” in the Christmas pageant. Conflict moves this story from one scene to the next.
Most of us would rather do without drama in our daily lives. Boring is better for our blood pressure. :-)
But the last thing we want when we read, watch movies or television is boredom. Writers, no matter the seriousness or light-heartedness of the story line, we readers ask you to give us drama, lots of it.
Viva conflict, long live drama, but only in our fantasies…
Fran Shaff is the author of contemporary and historical sweet romance, young peoples’ novels and short stories. Her novels are available in hardcover, paperback and e-formats. Her short stories have appeared in such places as Woman’s World magazine and Amazon.com in the Amazon Shorts program. Awards Fran has won include Write Touch Readers’ Award, More than Magic Award, Herbert W. Blakely Award, Golden Rose Award, EPPIE nomination for children’s literature, two Recommended Read Awards from Fallen Angel Reviews, Top Pick Award from Romance Reader at Heart, E-book of the Month Award from MyShelf.com, and two CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards, one nomination.