|Greenhouses at Chatsworth|
Conflict also has to come through plot though it is not divorced from character. Having a brand new character suffer tragedy on their first appearance in the pages won’t work because the reader is not emotionally involved with the character. Having said that, let me qualify the statement. The only way it will work is if the tragedy is an early event in the life of the hero or heroine and we’re going to find out in the rest of the book exactly why it mattered so much. This sort of event often sits at the front of the book as a prologue, and it has to grip the reader and make them want to find out what happened next.
Personally I’m not in favour of childhood incidents that then resonate through the life of the major character when we pick up the story thirty years later. For me this would be better handled as a mystery thread, making the reader wonder why the hero acts as he does until we find out at a late point in the story what that dreadful childhood incident was. If it’s something in the near past, say a year ago, then it’s OK to treat that differently, for then it adds a different element to the tale, because the reader knows that the hero will react badly to certain stimuli that are certain to arrive sooner or later.
I heard a tale locally of a writer reading her first page to her writing group. It began with graphic sex, which made everyone uncomfortable, not because of the sex, but because they had no point of reference. They didn’t know either character involved and therefore were not “clued in” to the story or the strangers performing such intimate acts.
It’s a lesson worth remembering!