Creating Conflict: An Interview with Author Marissa Meyer
How does a #1 New York Times bestselling author add conflict to her scenes? Find out in this exclusive Writing Mastery interview!
From the moment Marissa Meyer hit the young adult fiction scene back in 2012, she's been on a skyrocket ride to the top. Her first novel, Cinder, (the first installment in The Lunar Chronicles) debuted on the New York Times list, and by the time the last novel in the series was released, she was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her next series, Renegades, also went on to be a bestseller and her books have been published in over 38 countries.
We were excited to sit down with Marissa to ask her all of our burning questions about writing conflict. Her answers will both enlighten and inspire you. Enjoy!
How do you insert conflict into your stories? Is it something that comes naturally to you, or is it something that you have to go back and add in later?
I'd say it comes fairly natural, but I think that's maybe because I'm drawn to telling stories that kind of have inherent conflict. So there's always a part of the story where that originated from, that has conflict already built into it. For example, in Renegades, the idea is that a supervillain falls in love with a superhero. Well, you know that's not going to go well! So you can just kind of play with that.
That said, as I'm writing a draft, or even earlier, when I'm first making my initial outline, one thing I'm constantly asking myself is, "How can I make this worse for the characters?" What can I do that's going to push them, that's going to challenge them; what other obstacles can I put in their path? And constantly just trying to push on them more, as much as I can, to really drive that up.
What are your tips for adding conflict?
It depends on what kind of conflict you're trying. Depending on what genre and what type of story you're writing, if you can put your characters in peril— physical peril is an obvious thing you can do. But even more subtly, I find sometimes I'll have a scene that's not working, and I'll be trying to figure it out, and at some point, it will occur to me: "Oh! Nobody's mad at each other." You have these characters and they're existing in this space for this period of time, and no one's trying to kill anyone, and no one's arguing about anything, or no one's trying to hide a secret.
When I realize that I have one of those scenes, where no one is butting heads— that's why the scene isn't working. There's no tension there. And so, if you find yourself needing more conflict, look for those moments in the story in which people are getting along too well, and see what you can do to make them more at odds with each other.
My big thing is always: Add a secret. It's instant conflict!
Yes! Who's lying? Someone's lying about something...