I've been analyzing my plot lately, with the help of The Plot Whisperer's advice (come back tomorrow for a review of her book, but for now check out her free goodies). One thing I've discovered, is that I made a particular secondary character too nice. Though he's been badly disfigured in an accident and feels shunned in his town, he's patient, kind, and generous. Pretty boring, in fact, when he meets my protagonist.
Agent Rachelle Gardner tweeted an article that got me thinking further. Instead of increasing just the inner conflict or the outer conflict, why not both? I highly recommend Mike Duran's post, The Bomb Under the Sofa.
Donald Maass suggests printing out your manuscript, tossing it in the air, and picking up random pages to check for tension on every page. I suspected that the section introducing this character would not make the cut.
So, what did I decide to do? He's not nice anymore, he's wounded and haunted by the accident he survived. He avoids people (even my main character) for fear of rejection. He's fearful of small places (because of his accident in an underground tunnel). And he's a cauldron of anger, because a senseless accident yanked away the chance for the life he dreamed of.
Instead of a cozy "instant-best-friends" relationship, he and my main character are at odds, constantly arguing, misunderstanding, and mistrusting. Having "stuff" for them to do and talk about is so much easier when conflict is involved. Knowing he's claustrophobic (and ashamed of that fact), means I'll put him in situations where he will be forced to choose between avoiding his fear and saving someone he loves. His anger will make him confront my protagonist on issues she would rather not share with anyone. And he'll be forced to travel the countryside, rather than hide away from society in his home.
Anyone can write in an earthquake or assassin to increase the tension. But when the tension is connected to the character's inner fears and insecurities, you get more for your money. Now it's time for me to analyze the rest of my plot the same way.
How about you? Is your inner and outer conflict working together to ratchet up the tension?