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On Creating Conflict (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

Angel Dust by Sarah Mussi

Getting teenagers to read is a tough job. We know for a start they have plenty more to do with their lives than pick up a book. We know that we can’t compete with the telly and wouldn’t dare try to steal time away from the mobile, but does that mean we don’t try at all?


The thing is if you are a writer of teen fiction you’ve got to find readers, and it’s up to you to figure out how. I knew it was going to be tough when I started writing for young adults, but I was up for the challenge. There was only one little caveat – if getting teenagers to read any book was going to be tough, then getting teenagers to read a specific book (my book) was going to be even tougher. So did I give up?


Why not?  Because over the years I’ve discovered a few secrets that have helped me hook in young adult readers and keep them dangling there on the edge of their seats craving more. I’m going to share with you – yes, all you aspiring teen writers out there – my trade secrets! So if you want an young adult to pick up YOUR book and read it avidly from cover to cover, here’s what you need …

You need Narrative Drive.

Narrative Drive helps create spell binding stories. It keeps the reader glued to the pages (I’ve tested this out on me, in the belief that what grabs me will probable grab them too!) So this set of twelve posts will reveal to ze world :

Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 1.

drum roll…  tada!

Narrative Drive exists in any situation where we have a powerful force or longing faced by an equally powerful obstacle.

For example: Narrative Drive is what keeps us watching a football match. It’s this first secret of Narrative Drive, the powerful force or longing faced by an equally powerful obstacle i.e. the two opposing teams that keep the audience gripped until one of the opposing forces triumphs.

So how you can use this secret?

  1. Create a powerful antagonist (could be a person, natural force or an internal feature of the protagonist)
  2. Pit your protagonist against your antagonist
  3. Let them both have the same story goal – but only one of them can win.

We have many examples of this technique being in popular fiction and in film too – do you have some favourites?



Sarah Mussi’s author website:

Sarah Mussi’s bio page


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The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     Hold Me Closer, NecromancerThe Raven QueenThe RepossessionAcross the Universe

Writing Teen Novels

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