Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It Ain't For Better, But It's For Good

Never did the things I thought I would
Would'a left just didn't know I could
Things don't work out like they should
It ain't for better but it's for good

Main Street, In the life of Chris Gaines, Garth Brooks

One of my weakest points in writing is conflict.  I might as well admit that it's one of the weakest point in my entire life.  I would walk a mile to avoid a conflict if I could help it.  I'm a lot like my Dad in that.  I don't like to fight. I'd much rather live a comfortable, if a little boring, life where everything glides uneventfully along.

How does that translate into fiction? Not well.

Not well at all.

I am not good at digging up conflicts for my characters to go through, because it makes me uncomfortable.  Really, really uncomfortable.  So uncomfortable that there are some days I just can't do it. 

This is why I surround myself with fellow writers who are really good at conflict. I have one friend in particular (yes, you, Michelle!) who is fabulous at conflict. I envy her! Her conflicts usually end up with blood stains.

Conflicts don't always have to be that drastic, but we need them.  If we had no conflict in life, we wouldn't learn anything, and we'd grow up to be spoiled brats with no real understanding of this world we live in. They're never comfortable - we learn about gravity, the hard way, at a very young age. Like it or not, gravity gets more painful when you try to defy it as an adult - the last time I tried, it required surgery to fix.  There's a conflict you can always rely on!

A book with no conflict is a textbook at best, a dead snore at worst. We want to see conflict. The human nature in each of us longs to know we are not alone, and that there are others who are going through things that make our life seem easier than it might be.  We need fictional conflict, adventure in writing or suspense in print, to take us away from our own problems for a while.

So in a way, putting our fictional people through the wringer is a service to humanity at large.

It may not be better for them, but it is good for those who read.

I've often thought of covering a wall with squares, and in each square write a conflict ranging between losing a job to being attacked by a rabid coyote. Then when I reached a crossroads, I could just huck a dart at the wall and let luck decide what my character would go through next.  Somehow I doubt it would work as well as I hope, but it might be worth a try.

I would love to know what you do. How do you find the conflicts that keep your characters on their toes? Do you come up with your conflict first, or your characters? Do you borrow from the current news, or from history? Do you throw darts?  

Please share! I need all the help I can get!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wendy, You have another birthday coming so for your b-day I will send you some sticky notes and a set of darts. Lol! You are a very good writer, never forget that. You have a gift for that and don't forget that you have been promised that whatever you choose to do you will succeed. You are very good at coming up with conflict as well as being a peacemaker. Love you.