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My Dirty Little Secret

Title roped you in, didn’t it? Hah, you think it’s a smut article because I write romance. Well that’s not the case today because my dirty little secret is only dirty because I’m a writer, and this is one hefty confession.


I hate conflict.

Hate it with a passion that cannot be rivaled. In my personal life, I avoid it like the plague. Won’t go near it, no thank you. I don’t care if I’m right and I have a signed affidavit confirming my opinion. Not even if God himself came down and stood as my witness would I engage in a debate or dive into a fight. Nope, not gonna do it. But I will warn you, if you mess with my children, I will chase you to the gates of hell and chain you there. Okay, so there is one thing that will push me into action, but besides that I’m content to take the easy path and stay out of any and all forms of conflict.

Why is this a dirty secret? And what does my intense dislike of conflict have to do with writing?

It has everything to do with writing because at the core of every story is the conflict driving the motivation of the characters. This is where my growth as a writer has taken a hit. It takes every ounce of courage for me to throw my characters into a situation where they must fight to come out stronger.

I’m not like the rest of the Muses. I don’t like to torture my darlings. Even if they tell me that’s where their story is heading I’ll redirect them and point to a clean page saying, “Look, there’s a nice quiet pasture with pretty flowers and bright sunshine. Come join me for a glass of iced tea and some fresh cookies!”

This behavior is contradictory to what is expected of me as an author. There is no growth for the characters, no motivation, no sweet victory to achieve if there is no conflict to overcome. So in my avoidance, I have failed my characters. They deserve to struggle, to fight, to taste the intoxicating nectar of triumph, or endure the humbling pain of defeat.



I remember the different types of conflict in literature from my high school English classes. (Don’t get your feminist panties in a bunch…I mean man as in a person in general, could be male or female.)

Man vs. Man

Man vs. God/Fate

Man vs. Technology

Man vs. Self

Man vs. Society

Man vs. Supernatural

Man vs. Nature

But my problem still stands. I naturally avoid conflict. So how do I train myself to challenge my characters and myself by diving into a story and throwing in a healthy dose of “oh man I’m so screwed, how am I gonna get out of this one” mentality? I just don’t think this way.  I know I’m not being realistic when I avoid it. Reality sucks and there are constant challenges we face on a daily basis. Maybe I’m too nice? My heart hasn’t twisted and shriveled like some of the blackened hulls of muscle I’ve seen lying around this place. By the way, that was totally a compliment my fellow muses. *grins* Thumbs up for being sadistic mothers/fathers who like to torture their creations.

I guess this is just part of my journey as a writer. Conflict…you and I need to have a long chat. I can’t write without you. And you, well, you intimidate me in ways that make me want to curl up in the fetal position and sob for days. Thanks for that.

Do you have any advice for me? How do you deal with writing conflict?

13 thoughts on “My Dirty Little Secret

  1. The thing that made me smile (yes, smile. I’m evil like that.) is that in avoiding conflict, you have come face to face with conflict. Your desire to avoid conflict is conflicting against your desire to become the marvelous writer you know in your (totally non-blackened) heart you can be. Which pretty much means you need to learn to face conflict, so you can remove the brick wall of conflict that has been built in your way.

    Maybe try with baby steps. Come up with a little conflict for your characters and work out how to resolve it. Eg. You want Lemon Cheesecake for dessert but your fellow muses want chocolate gateau. What are your options, what are the consequences, and what lessons will be learned? You could have lemon cheesecake today and chocolate next week. You could buy both so everyone gets what they want. You could choose to have apple pie and ice cream as a completely separate alternative because you all agree you like it.

    The way i deal with conflict in my life (and my stories) is to believe that everything happens for a reason. So you may go without your lemon cheesecake because you were outvoted, and the next day you might see a recall notice on lemon cheesecake because something nasty got into it. Ultimately, losing that conflict was dissatisfying in the short term, but worked out for the best in the long term. That way, you aren’t hurting your characters, you are actually helping them.

    In a strange, round-about, sometimes slightly upsetting way…

    Oh, and my feminist panties managed to stay un-bunched, but they did smirk a little.

  2. It seems as though we have been born out of the same mold. Confrontation is a four letter word for me in real life. The funny thing, however, is that the more I write, the easier it becomes (relatively speaking) to address the inevitable confrontation in my daily life. I am by no means adept at it, nor do I think I will ever be. But, it does seem that “practicing” the art of conflict negotiation inside my words has allowed me to approach it with a bit more confidence or perceived experience with real human beings. I will never be the person who initiates an argument, but I would like to think that dealing with some of these scenarios in my writing has softened my shell (or maybe hardened it depending upon the way you look at it). Thanks for sharing and good luck 😉

  3. I write romance, and yet I’m not a very romantic person. I struggle with describing emotions, which is ironic since that’s basically the core of romances. I feel your pain. It’s a definite challenge.

  4. I don’t like conflict myself, so I understand, Kristin. I’m in a weekly writing group with 3 published author. I’ve just learned that they’re going to nag me to add some conflict to my stories, so I try to do upfront now to avoid them scolding me. I guess that means I now add conflict on the page to avoid conflict in real life.

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