Monday, October 19, 2009

I deny the allegations and challenge the allegators

Over the years of your endeavors, the subject of conflict has lingered resolutely, seeping up from your own inner reaches, from a not inconsiderable population of students who express revulsion that stories should have to contain conflict in the first place, and from a number of bouts with you, wearing an editorial cap, wanted from an otherwise splendid writer a deeper sense of conflict than the mere, obligatory presence of opposition.

Your recent preoccupation with duality, as expressed not only in mammal but particle behavior thus leads you toward conclusions about conflict:

1) Conflict is internal within a character as well as external.  She may wish to achieve a particular goal and indeed has the opportunity to do so, but is wracked by the fear that her goal orientation has made her selfish, distanced from the needs of others.  Externally, she is faced with the debt of obligation to succeed placed upon her by family, school, law firm, gender, etc.

2) There is a default duality between action and inaction (Just ask Arjuna in The Bhagavad-Gita) which is good for starters but is not sufficient unto itself to satisfy the reader.

3) Try to tie the tin cans of motive and intent to the bumper.  What motives and intents have produced the seeming impasse that leads to lines drawn in the sand and, gulp, actions and their consequences.

4) Ask yourself why conflict must lead to emotion-driven action or lack of action.  (Just ask King Creon, uncle to Antigone.)

5) Negotiated settlements are ultimately kosher but not until hot blood has been shed and the combatants have seen some unanticipated form of consequence.

6) All conflict begins with duality of some nature.

7) Ask self how to get writers who are made uncomfortable by conflict to face up to it so that they may proceed.

8)  Conflict may come from differing ideology or even differing points of view but for it to have any impact on the reader, it must have a visceral impact upon you.  Er, gut level response.

9) The best opportunity to learn from the work and produce a measure of freshness is to bring characters to a clash over a conflict you personally are uncomfortable with.

10)  It may be all right to know the outcome up front but it is better to seem to stumble on the means by which the outcome is achieved.

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