Over at House of the D, De muses about the nature of conflicts and scenes in a story.
Any scene with NO CONFLICT = DOOOOOOM.
Two characters fall happily in love? One of them has a fatal disease. A mother and daughter quit arguing? The mother has called the men in white coats to come pick up the daughter and wants to keep her peaceful until the girl’s sedated. The villain invites the hero in for tea? Strichnine, my friend. Strichnine.
I honestly think she may have just summarized the entire writer’s bible for the Battlestar Galactica team.
Once faced with a rule like this, what is any writer going to do buy turn ’round and look at their own work with the shiny new microscope.
Result: In Hidden Things, I have two conflict-free scenes in the book; one with Gerschon, and one with Calli’s mom.
Am I going to change them? No, not at this point; the scenes work as they are written — they are pause-points in the narrative where both the reader and the protagonist get to take a short breather. (Also, any added wrinkles in the story at either of those points would require a number of additional scenes to address and resolve, and the story already feels ‘done’ to me.)
There is a tiny bit of rumbling from certain quarters that it wouldn’t really hurt to add a bit more.
“Tight narrative,” say these voices. “Great pacing, but… I wish we knew a bit more about the secondary characters… perhaps about 75 more pages would help flesh that out?”
Now, to my mind, if you finish a book that’s designed to have a sequel, and the reader wants more… well, that’s exactly the response you want.
But if it turns out that those extra pages will sell an otherwise iffy publisher on the book, I’d for damn sure rather get those pages by adding a few more conflicts to the story, instead of filling in the cracks with extra globs of unnecessary exposition-mortar.