The answer is easy: Always go for the conflict. The more conflict, the better the novel. And no, of course it’s not that easy.
I just happened to talk to my best friend about the matter of adding enough conflict to your plot to keep your novel going and your readers on the hook. In my opinion, you really can’t have too much conflict in your book, because, let’s face it, long-winded and drawn-out introspective scenes are ultimately boring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any introspective moments and that your entire novel should consist of gunfights etc. because not all conflict is conveyed by action scenes or outright character confrontation. What I’m talking about are all those conflicts that characters go through. Conflicts about relationships, conflicts about the political system, conflicts about doing what needs to be done or having to make a difficult choice.
When it comes down to it, there really shouldn’t be any scene that is not in some way or another driven by conflict, whether that’s an exterior conflict such as a protagonist/antagonist confrontation or an interior one such as conflicted emotions. That’s what drives the novel and sure, you will probably have those little moments when the plot seems to ease down a little and makes room for a more contemplative scene, but those shouldn’t ever take over your plot.
Nathan Bransford just wrote a great article about his attitude on conflict and I found it to be great food for thought as conflict has been a major thing occupying my mind lately and I noticed that you really can’t have enough of it.
As long as you keep track of all the little plot threads that will doubtlessly arise from this and are able to tie them off that is. And if it you’re writing a series and it will in fact take another book to tie them off that’s fine, as long as you don’t get your readers and eventually yourself lost in a wild tangle of loose plot yarn 😉