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There's a conflict between a mother (a major character) and her ex-husband (an antagonist) during the rising action of my story. He grows jealous, possessive and very persistent over the fact she's building a relationship with the protagonist. He can't get over it.

However, the antagonist gained custody of their only daughter and is a very good father to her. The poor child simply can't understand that good parents can also be bad romantic partners to each other.

So we've got a scene where we have an antagonist father dealing massive psychological damage to his ex-wife, an ex-wife doing her best to shield herself from it, a protagonist trying to comfort her, and a child growing very desperate to dispel the conflict by trying to have them get along.

My question is, how can this conflict be permanently solved in a way that doesn't destroy the reader's Willing Suspension of Disbelief AND avoids the child crossing the Despair Event Horizon? How can the child contribute positively to the conflict?

  • The antagonist never bothers with his ex-wife and the protag anymore;
  • The antagonist and the daughter stay together and preserve their parental relationship;
  • The protag and his girlfriend continue growing their romantic relationship.

Here are some relevant features of my story:

  • Violence is never used; conflicts must be dealt with in psychological ways.
  • This specific conflict doesn't immediately lead to the climax; there are some more rising actions before it gets triggered.
  • The protag and his romantic partner must keep nurturing their relationship, no matter what happens.
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Something will be given up.

Your conflict appears to be between a man and a woman who want to have a romantic relationship and her daughter who wants her divorced parents to be together.

You take for granted that the foolish child "simply can't understand that good parents can also be bad romantic partners to each other" as if the child's motivations are unworthy and basically waved away by us wiser, more knowing adults. I submit that THAT is the crux of the entire story right there!

It is totally natural for a child to want two parents, and for that child to want both their parents to be together. It's part of who we are. It is human nature. It's hard wired. Even more so, when a parent decides that their romantic happiness is more important than the social stability of their child, the kid will pick that up! They may be immature, but they are rarely stupid about such things. A child will understand that their mom is prioritizing her romantic relationship with your protagonist above that child's interests. They are totally justified in resenting him!

I would say that you probably have the wrong antagonist here. Sure the mother's ex is probably grating to your main character, but the real emotional big guns are going to be when you get into the head of the kid who just doesn't understand why mommy doesn't really care about her inherent need to grow up in a stable home with her biological parents.

So, since that is the fundamental conflict, either the kid will internalize that they really aren't very important to their parents (and potentially that they aren't very valuable as human beings, as many children of divorced parents do) and give up on their idea of having two parents at the same time, or your protagonist will try to get out of the way of a broken family, or your "antagonist" basically ceases to exist (which I disagree with you about since in this situation it is his mere existence that makes him your "antagonist" not a specific goal he has that conflicts with your protagonist. Again, I'd go with the daughter as the antagonist.) Something has to give, and the value comes from understanding just what it costs your characters when it does.

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    Wow, extremely insightful answer! All this time I wasn't even sure why the father was the antagonist, and assumed it was because he was trying to put his ex-wife down (who the protagonist was trying to comfort). However, simply making the daughter the antagonist puts all the puzzle pieces together, and even gave me more insight for the climax! Thank you for this answer. – NeuRaL-60 Jul 26 '17 at 18:55
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well if you show the girlfriend to be a good lady maybe she can explain the daughter about the better side of her parents being seperated. Like she can let her know that it is better to live away from each other if there is no love amongst them as the hatred keeps on growing and affects the life of people like a poison ,whose side effect keeps on increasing with the time

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