EXCERPT from "Tough Love: Make Your Protagonist Suffer" by Randall Silvis in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction:
Elkin, the winner of two National Book Critics Circle Awards, for the novels George Mills and Mrs. Ted Bliss, was a consummate stylist, and, like most literary writers, more concerned with language and character than with plots. The darkly comic conflicts that drove his characters tended to be more internal than external. But in no way did that diminish his resolve (nor should it diminish yours) to create characters who are at risk.
Conflict is the heart and soul of story. This is true of every form of narrative, whether short fiction, long fiction, screenplay, stage play, narrative nonfiction or even narrative poem. Without conflict, there is no story.
Randall Silvis is the author of 11 critically acclaimed books thus far: one collection of short fiction, nine novels, and one book of narrative nonfiction. A new suspense novel, The Boy Who Shoots Crows, is forthcoming from Penguin Books in late 2011, as is a short slipstream novel, Flying Fish, from PS Publishing (London) in the summer of 2011. In 2012 PS Publishing will release the short novel The Boy Who Learned That the Moon Is Cold. Silvis's literary awards include the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, two literature fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Grant to the Caribbean, an honorary Doctor of Letters degree, and six fellowships for his fiction, drama and screenplays from the Pennsylvania Council On the Arts. Look for a nonfiction book on the craft of writing to come from Silvis in the future. His blog can be found at http://randallsilvis.wordpress.com.