In Real Life®, I've tried to avoid conflict whenever possible. Personal drama so isn't my thing. Mind you, it doesn't always work, but I think I've been fairly successful in developing positive conflict-avoidance techniques. My life is primarily even-keeled, with only a few big waves now and then, and that's the way I like it.
As a writer, however, my job is to create as much conflict as I can for my characters. To give them seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome, and when they conquer those obstacles, throw even harder problems in their paths. Conflict, as they say, keeps readers turning the page.
You see the dichotomy, don't you? How does someone who does her best to avoid conflict in her own life figure out how to create conflict in her writing?
It ain't easy, let me tell you. At least, it hasn't been for me. I think one reason my early stories fizzled out within a few chapters was my inability to create strong conflict, as well as my inability to sustain that conflict. Who wants to read stories where everybody works at getting along and understanding one another? Can you say boring? I knew you could.
Even now, I struggle with writing conflict. In fact, one of the major things I check for during editing is conflict. Right now, as I'm working my way through THE LAZARUS GAMBIT for the third—and hopefully final—time, I have a list of things to watch out for and at the head of that list is this: Make it Worse! I've already strengthened the conflict in several scenes and won't be surprised to rewrite several more.
I wish I could say that I've figured out how to easily inject believable conflict into my stories and no longer have to worry about this impediment to my writing. But the truth is, I doubt that will ever be true. I'll always have to consciously work on conflict, because it doesn't come naturally to me.
How about you? As a writer, do you struggle with conflict, or do you find that aspect of writing easy (and, oh, how I envy you if you do)? As a reader, how do you feel about conflict — does it ever feel like writers are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at characters, or can there never be too much conflict?