Have you ever noticed that there aren’t a lot of good stories revolving around pacifists?
Any good story has to have conflict. Though honestly, as I sit down to write this it’s difficult to articulate why. The best example I can think of is the ‘Little Bear’ television program for little kids. I’ve had to watch a lot of episodes, and they are mind-numbing. Mostly I blame the incessant, bland, meandering background music. The other big problem is a glaring lack of conflict in most of the episodes. You just wind up thinking, “Why am I watching this?” Or more to the point, “Why is this story being told?”
If your story needs conflict, does that mean there has to be a big fight scene? Beowulf fought Grendel. Dracula finally got a stake through his heart. Rocky went the distance. Sydney Carton got hanged (okay, it wasn’t much of a fight, but someone lost…or did he win?). ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is basically one long argument, though fortunately it never gets to physical violence.
Thankfully, especially for you pacifists out there, conflict doesn’t have to be obvious, external, fist-on-face (or tentacle-on-face, or fist-on-slime, or what-have-you). Generally, there are four types of conflict. Physical would be your character physically fighting against other men, women, children, animals, or natural forces (see above list). Classical refers to a character fighting against fate or the circumstances of life (think Film Noir). Social conflict means you’ve got a character struggling against ideas, practices, or customs of the group (Yentl). Psychological is, of course, my favorite and involves the internal struggle to overcome the enemy within.
Which type do you write the most? Do you only use one type of conflict in your stories? Is the conflict obvious or does it get lost in flowery descriptions of each and every bit of minutia? (That’d be me) Can you, would you, or should you try to layer in different kinds of conflict over one another? Does the conflict necessarily create or define a “right” and a “wrong”, a “villain” and a “hero”? Do you remember where you parked the car?
Just a few questions to get you thinking. Now quit thinking so much and get to writing! [see last post]