This question came up in a recent Yellow Highlighter Class – and it’s such a good question that I thought it deserved a blog post. So, here is that post.
The simple answer is you shouldn’t have to “remind” your reader of your character’s conflict at all. A conflict which is strong enough to support the story should be there in the character’s psyche, in his world coloring most everything he thinks, says, and does to some degree. It’s not like the character can ever really forget about the conflict. It’s there in the background weighing on him even when he’s trying to focus on other things.
A lot of authors make the mistake of creating a few scenes which show the conflict in a major way…with characters fighting or a big crisis with big consequences that hang in the balance.
The reality is that while there’s nothing wrong with showing conflict in a major way in some scenes, the conflict doesn’t cease to exist between the scenes where it is shown in a major way. If the conflict is a strong conflict it will be a part of the character’s overall reality and he won’t be able to get away from it.
You will want to think about where/when the character is impacted by the conflict. If the conflict changes his body language, what he thinks, what he feels, what he says, what he does, then you need to show his conflict as part of that reality. You’re not really stopping to remind the reader he has a conflict. You’re showing the conflict, in action, in movement, as the conflict unfolds throughout the story.