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?