I just finished reading Persepolis Rising, book seven in The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. As with the other books in the series, this story is a masterful example of how to elevate conflict. Writers are frequently advised that the secret to creating a gripping plot involves making the audience care about the conflict. This is handled well in The Expanse by putting beloved characters into difficult situations.
Just when I think I understand the stakes in any of The Expanse books, everything changes. Oh wait. I thought only X, Y, and Z would be affected by the outcome of this tricky conflict. But now A-W are also invested.
Wait… Uh-oh. Now it’s A-Z who will suffer if the protagonists fail. Plus, the price of failure is now exponentially higher. So now I’m terrified for all the characters I care about. Particularly since it looks hopeless.
This fear is one of the reasons why, with every single book of The Expanse, I’ve had to step away from the story for a little bit. When I get too anxious in my own life, I can’t handle worrying about the increasing potential for disaster in a book.
That’s the skill of the writers at work.
I think any writer, in any any genre, could learn valuable lessons from how these books handle conflict.
I certainly have.