Sparring Characters – Antebellum Style

It is with great excitement and pleasure that I introduce Haley Whitehall, who has graciously written a guest post today on her new book, Living Half Free! [Drumroll….]

Sparring Characters – Antebellum Style

By Haley Whitehall


Step right up ladies and gentlemen! Buy your tickets for the fight!

*Do you have your tickets? I will wait until you find your seat. No, there isn’t any popcorn.*

Great books are filled with pages of great conflict. There are four major forms of conflict in literature. 1. Character’s struggle against nature. 2. Character’s struggle against an antagonist. 3. Character’s struggle against society. 4. Struggle between competing elements within the character (internal conflict). 

While there are many ways to write powerful and engaging conflict, one of my favorites is to have two characters face off. At some point (or several points in a novel) the protagonist faces the villain/antagonist. These moments excite me. Whether it is going to be a physical fight or a verbal one, I picture my characters on opposite ends of a boxing ring.

Then in my best announcer voice I introduce each of them. *Don’t worry; the neighbors do not think I’m training to be sportscaster. I have a very thick office door.* While I do not have cool names for them like wrestlers do on TV, I do take time to mention their physical stature and some of their strengths.

“In this corner of the ring stands the wiry, wisp of a boy, Zachariah. At fifteen, he will have to rely on his wit and inner strength to survive this drastically uneven match up.”

Zachariah takes a couple steps forward and swallows hard. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, worrying the corner of his brown sack coat. Beads of sweat pop on his pale forehead. He lowers his gaze, not daring to look his opponent in the eye. The man is angry enough already.

“In the other corner stands the big bully, the nineteen year-old everyone loves to hate. Let’s hear it for Master Henry.”

Master Henry steps forward, rears his shoulders, and flashes a grin that could run the devil competition. A vein pulsates on his neck. He folds his hands into fists and his eyes narrow into threatening slits.

It is the battle of the ages folks! Brain versus brawn. Place your bets. How many rounds do you think they’ll go this time?

Zachariah and Master Henry face off many times in my debut novel LIVING HALF FREE.

Book blurb:

When Zachariah, a naïve mulatto slave, is sold to a Kentucky slave trader, and separated from his ma and sister, he realizes the true meaning of not having rights. Singled out for abuse by his new master’s sadistic son, he dreams of only one thing: escape. He thinks he’s found it when he falls in love with a Cherokee woman from a powerful family, under whose direction he learns to pass as white. But it’s not long before he discovers that freedom that’s based on a lie will only get him so far. While struggling to find his place in the world, he also wrestles within his heart to realize his faith. This faith is tested when his slave past catches up with him, and threatens everyone he cares for. He must decide whether slavery is the price he’s willing to pay for his family’s freedom.


HALEY WHITEHALL has a B.A in history and has been studying the Civil War era since the 5th grade. Her writing style is Mark Twain with a little more faith. She likes to write out of the box stories that feature an underdog. LIVING HALF FREE is her debut novel. Released February 29, the ebook can be found at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Find out more about Haley through her website or connect with her on Twitter @HaleyWhitehall or Facebook.

And now let us leave you with a question: Do you have any special techniques for writing conflict?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Haley Whitehall (@HaleyWhitehall)
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 17:48:07

    Jennifer, thank you so much for letting me guest post on your blog! The article looks great. If there is anything I can do to return the support, let me know 😉


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