First let me make this clear: Don’t do this.
Don’t add conflict to your story solely for the sake of having conflict in your story.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out, I’ll go into a bit more detail. I see this often in adult novels where it sometimes seems authors are trying to increase their word count. Every page. Every paragraph of every page. Every word. There is conflict. Conflict builds upon conflict. It’s everywhere. And sure, some of this may be gripping and keep you on the edge of your seat, but if every time your character gets in the car and needs to get somewhere in a hurry and there just happens to be a major traffic jam or a garbage truck has accidentally dumped in the middle of the street, that’s a problem.
The edge-of-your-seat stuff wears off, and you’re left with the reader doing plenty of eye rolling and cursing (well, at least this is what I do). And audiobooks are particularly horrible to listen to when they delve into this extraneous conflict. The things take long enough to listen to as it is.
So why should we, as writers, try to avoid it?
This conflict has nothing to do with the main story (unless of course the main character’s mother drove the garbage truck or caused the traffic jam—then it relates). But normally, it’s just a mechanism to keep the reader anxious. And too much is too much.
I’ve heard there should be conflict on page one. And that whatever conflict is seen in page one (and chapter one) should be indicative to the overall conflict of the story. It should be a hint to the reader of what they can expect. It should help ease the reader into the world. In short, it should be related.
So no matter where you are in your novel, I leave you with this fun jingle:
Avoid the traffic jam.
Or your conflict will be spam.
Okay how about this one:
Don’t suffer eye-rolling fate.
Conflict should relate.
PJ Hoover—who never claimed to be a poet