It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do an LTUE post, so I’m excited to share this one. This topic is especially relevant to me right now as I’m editing Powerful because one of the main conflicts of the book is political unrest, and the one piece of feedback I get from every reader is that the conflicts go on for too long without any point.
So how do I make the political unrest interesting to my readers? Obviously, I dig through my LTUE notes to find the panel I attended. The panelists were Michaelbrent Collings, Larry Correia, Peter Orullian, Luke Peterson, and Dan Willis, and here is their advice.
The author needs to know everything that is happening. We need to know both sides of everything. And when I say both, I mean all sides, because sometimes there are multiple sides to a conflict (like in my story, there are at least 6).
But here’s the thing- We don’t have to put everything we know down on the paper. We only write what our POV character knows. Why? Because if the conflict doesn’t relate directly to our Main Characters, then NO ONE CARES.
It may sound harsh, but that’s one of the things I’m trying to edit right now. I spent two chapters discussing the finer points of the governmental setup, when it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect whether or not my MC will get from point A to point B. Readers are only invested in what affects the outcome for the characters they are emotionally invested in.
Let’s take Star Wars for example. I know, shocker. In episode IV, we’ve got this girl-
Now, we don’t really know who she is at the beginning, but she’s the first person we see to actively stand up against the bad guys. We instantly know she’s a protagonist, and because we know that, we are invested in her life.
Then, this happens-
And though we still don’t know much about Leia and we don’t know anyone on Alderaan, this still affects us because of how deeply it affects her. We know that the antagonist just blew up her home, killing all of her family. It is political conflict that has meaning. It’s not boring.
Now take episode VII, which follows a similar storyline to episode IV. We’ve got the antagonist who blows up an entire system of planets. Now why doesn’t this hold the same effect? In theory, it should hold a much bigger impact because of the implication of so many more deaths. But it falls flat.
At least for me, it didn’t have any meaning until Finn returns to find Han and Rey. Why? Because then the political unrest affects our main characters. The starkiller base didn’t blow up a planet that was important to our characters, but it does have an effect on Finn, who finally realizes he can’t outrun the New Republic (among other obstacles it creates for our characters, like Leia’s rebellion that no longer has funding and support).
Another big thing to consider is the end goal. Always focus on the end goal. As we writers know, a plot is basically finding a creative way to get from point A to point B. Well, this involves that to. If it doesn’t affect the story between point A and point B, then it doesn’t belong in the story.
And remember that if your story is about a political conflict, but your POV character doesn’t see enough of it, you need a new POV. Or an additional one. Kings see wars differently than their soldiers do. Kings look at things overall, but the soldiers focus on themselves. And the people at home see a different side of the war than the soldiers and the king. And the enemy civilians being overrun by the protagonist’s side see the war differently too. There are many different stories to tell with one conflict, so make sure you’re telling the right one.