A Unique Way to Develop Conflict in Your Novel for Pantsers

Plan Your Novel Tip #6 Discover Your Characters' Worst Fears

Today is the sixth in an 8-post series on preparing your novel for Nanowrimo. In today’s post, we focus a unique way to develop conflict in your story for pantsers. 

If you missed it, the first step in your novel preparation is your elevator pitch and the second step is crafting your story synopsis. The third post on planning your characters is here. The fourth post is here on world building. The fifth post on plot and story building tips is here. (All the posts are here. Be sure to download the printable checklist there.)

Let’s get started!

First things first — Keep in mind your genre and review the information you drafted about your characters.

Next, clock off time to do this exercise. I recommend you spend at least of 20 minutes to do this exercise for your story.


Uncover Your Character’s Worst Fears to Discover Your Story Conflicts

I’m a pantser. That means I like to write my stories by the seat of my pants.

The problem was, when I started writing novels, the inspiration for my story and the love of my characters wasn’t enough. I needed a way to figure out the story, but all the standard plot tools didn’t work for me, or not very well.

I was stuck on how to create a compelling story that would keep me and my readers riveted to the page and caring what happened to my dear characters.

One day at a writing workshop, the teacher had us brainstorm our character’s worst fears, and then think of the worst thing after that, and even further, think of the worst fear after that.

I did this exercise and shuttered in fear at all horrible things I dreamed up for my character. And then I experienced an Aha. The Aha wasn’t that I scared myself with my imagination, even though that’s what happened.

My Aha was about using my strength of knowing my characters well to craft the story from start to finish.

So that’s what I do now. I start the novel preparation process for all my novels and novellas with drafting my characters. Then I spend extra time on uncovering their worst fears.

Here’s how you can do the same…

Exercise: “List of 20”

On a piece of paper or on your computer, list from 1 to 20.




and so on…

Then set the timer for 20 minutes.

Now brainstorm your character’s worst fears.

Keep moving your hand across the page to uncover more worse possibilities.

You may be surprised at what you discover. (hehe)

Review your work, and if need be, organize the fears from bad to worse.



Would you like hands-on support to plan and write your novel?


If you’d like hands-on support to plan your novel with your peers and with experienced instructors — Beth and Ezra Barany, then join us for our next course starting October 1st: 30-Day Writing Challenge to Plan Your Novel.

Sign up for the wait list here.

You can join the home study course at any time here.


Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! by Beth and Ezra Barany, Available where all books are sold!


You can also check out our newest book, Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, here!

This book will help you get excited to plan your novel. The tools shared here are designed to spark your muse and give you confidence when you sit down to write your story. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! is for organic writers and pansters who want a roadmap to follow, so that they can let their creativity loose.

“Beth’s book is like plotting for pantsers!”—Tess Rider, Science Fantasy Romance Author



Happily married for over 18 years, Beth and Ezra Barany help authors reach their dreams.

Beth Barany, an award-winning novelist and certified Creativity Coach for Writers, runs Barany Consulting, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to helping novelists write, publish, and market their books. She’s the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, and the paranormal sweet romance collection, Touchstone Series. She’s currently working on a science fiction mystery series.

Ezra Barany, an award-winning novelist and the bestselling author of The Torah Codes series, is also a teacher and mentor.

Together they help authors get their books out into the world.


Tip #7: A simple tool to design your plot called “Problem-Solution”

List of all 8 tips here and be sure to download the downloadable checklist.

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  • Arresting stuff here, Beth. The worst fears angle re characters caught my eye.

  • Beth Barany says:

    So glad, Godffrey! It’s one of my favorite ways into a story as a novelist.

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