Two interesting discussions on my lists this week. One is about what readers are reading right now. What genres are losing steam, which are gaining ground. The concensus seems to be that you have to write the book you want to read, because trends change too fast and by the time they peak in the marketplace, it is already too late to jump on board. A lot of the usual grumblings about too much of the same old, same old. Tv viewers seem to have the same grips. The other discussion is on creating conflict that will sustain a book until the end. Some writers find it hard to torture their characters enough, in my experience. This seems to stem from a couple of problems. First, the characters don't have enough internal/external conflict at the beginning. From page one, you need to set your characters at odds with each other, but using real, believable problems. Even in real life relationships people have conflicts. But the type of conflict to sustain a book needs to be larger, stronger and harder to work through. Sandra Brown once said that if one character is a fireman, then the opposing character needs to be a suspected arsonist.
The lesson is, the characters need to have opposing goals that collide with enough force to propel your plot forward. If you resolve a personal problem, then an external problem needs to rise up to cause problems. If you're having trouble torturing your characters with problems, I'd suggest watching a season of 24. Talk about putting characters through the ringer! Oh my. The other problem some writers seem to have is a reluctance to torture their characters. You create them and you, well, you like them. You don't want them to suffer, but you have to apply pressure. Think of your characters as coal. If you want to turn them into diamonds, then you have to apply the heat, and turn it up as high as is necessary for your story. I was kind of stuck in my latest book and a friend suggested I give the male character a secret. Just something as simple as that made him spring to life. Suddenly he had a back story and issues. It was great. Just keep in mind, as your brainstorming for problems, the first few ideas you come up with are probably cliches. Keep pushing until it hurts or the light bulb goes off and you feel excited again.