Low Conflict Fiction: When your antagonist is yourself

Low Conflict Fiction: When your antagonist is yourself

This was originally a supporter-only post, first posted to patreon and ko-fi in June 2020.


If you were to look at my plotting notes for NON PLAYER CHARACTER you would notice that there’s not much of a villain. The characters each have their own arc, but what they are  overcoming is less a great evil and more their own inner-demons and  insecurities.

This is especially true of the main character, Tar, who must find a way to live with their overwhelming anxiety in order to help their friends. And to return the favour to someone they love who  helped them manage their anxiety on Earth.

This has been my  approach to a low conflict fantasy story. It’s my first attempt at  something like it. My stories have always had very internal journies but  they are normally catalysed by much more external conflicts, like in  BOOKS & BONE where Ree is choosing her own path but to do so must  keep Smythe safe from those who would kill him.

There’s just …  not very much of that in NPC. There’s some, for sure, but not a lot. The  pressures driving the characters are smaller, more personal. The  resolutions are about an internal change, not defeating an external foe.

I  have always wanted more fiction like this but honestly I haven’t read much. I don’t know whether I’m striking the right balance. After all, in  a normal fantasy the characters are facing both internal AND external  challenges. What does it mean when I shift the focus so heavily to the  internal? What does it mean when a story like this walks the edge of  slice-of-life?

It’s a source of anxiety (funnily enough). It’s  something I’m thinking a lot about while I write, and it’s not the only  thing either. NPC is in many ways an entirely new kind of story for me,  and it’s making me think in new ways. Actually, the amount of mental  stretching I am doing to write this would surely not be considered worth  it for a story that is not going to shake the world. It’s fluffy and  sweet, and it’s meant to be.

I guess what I’m saying is: I hope  I’m getting this right. I hope this is a good balance. I hope a story  where anxiety is not a side-concern but actually the main challenge to  overcome still makes good fantasy.

I guess I won’t know for sure until I finish this and start looking for early readers.

…  Anyway! If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Different  perspectives are always so helpful when trying to navigate the bizarre  and subjective world of fiction writing.

And thanks for listening.

Image by Torulus from Pixabay

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