How to manage Rising Conflict in Stories

Rising Conflict in the writings of Lagos Egri
Rising Conflict in the writings of Lagos Egri

 

Staying with the work of Lagos Egri on how best to manage rising conflict in stories, this post specifically examines the role of transitions between emotional states.

Egri informs us that there are four such types:

Handling Rising Conflict

1. Foreshadowing (good)
2. Static (bad)
3. Jumping (bad)
4. Slowly rising (good)

Foreshadowed conflict should occur near the beginning of the story and should point to the forthcoming crisis.

In Romeo and Juliet, the warring families are already such bitter enemies that they ready to kill each other from the get-go.

Static conflict remains unchanging, spiking for only the briefest of moments and occurs only in bad writing. Arguments and quarrels create static conflict, unless the characters grow and change during these arguments. Every line of dialogue, every event, pushes towards the final goal.

In jumping conflict, the characters hop from one emotional level to another, eliminating the necessary transitional steps. This is also bad writing.

Avoid static and jumping conflict by knowing, in advance, what road your characters must travel on:

Fidelity to infidelity
Drunkenness to sobriety
Brazenness to timidity
Simplicity to pretentiousness

The above represent two extremes—start and destination.

Transitioning between less sharply seperated emotional states indicates slowly rising conflict between characters. This is the more desirable type of conflict in stories.

Supposing a character goes from love to hate. Let’s imagine there are seven steps between the two states:

1. Love
2. Disappointment
3. Annoyance
4. Irritation
5. Disillusionment
6. Indifference
7. Disgust
8. Anger
9. Hate

If a character goes from 1 to 5 at once, this constitutes jumping conflict, neglecting the necessary transition. In fiction, every step must be clearly shown. When your character goes through steps 1 to 9, you have slowly rising conflict. Each level is more intense than the previous one, with each scene gathering momentum until the final climax.

Summary

Rising conflict that transitions from level to level is the best way to manage the strife between your story’s characters.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

One thought on “How to manage Rising Conflict in Stories”

  1. The latest technology designed for home entertainment has forced established studios to adapt to a whole new culture where the consumer will no longer go to a movie bio scope but rather stay indoors surrounded by the comforts of their own home. Thus thanks to streaming and pay per view television Studios have been investing big money in television series and that means that television gets the best writers . This golden age of television is credited to writers who understand how to use the extra running time of a 45 minute episode to the benefit of character driven narratives. Fox has confirmed that the series Gotham will finish after 5 seasons. With a running time of over forty minutes an episode multiplied by twenty (plus) episodes times five seasons the characters of the batman universe have a lot of screen time to be defined – perhaps more then any previous interpretation including Zack Snyder’s critically acclaimed dark knight trilogy. The extra running time allows for the Penguin character written for the Gotham series is vastly more villainous then Danny Da Vito’s onetime interpretation of Oswald Cobblepot in Tim Burton’s Batman Return’s

    In short : If writers have more running time to fill , the stages of conflict that shapes your antagonist will be significantly more defined appose to a 90 minute block buster

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