August 11, 2013
I hate conflict.
I hate conflict so much I will do anything to avoid it. That’s tough because conflict is an inevitable as death and taxes. I usually handle conflict in one of two ways (here I go getting mentally naked in public again. Something in blogging brings that out in me.) When conflict rears its ugly head, I swallow down the anger, ruminate on and exaggerate it until it builds (usually way out of proportion), then I use the momentum from the built up anger to confront or annihilate the “conflicter.” Not pretty or healthy. Sometimes it’s easier to just get walked on; that’s the second way I handle it.
You need tension on the page at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict in the plot and narrative.
In other words, no conflict, no story. But if I avoid conflict in life, there’s no way I’m going to confront it when I write. I prefer writing warm fuzzy scenes because:
- I like my characters and I want to shield them from trouble. They’re my babies after all.
- I like the warm fuzzies I get from writing warm fuzzies.
- I hate conflict.
But I love conflict in the books I read. Gone Girl, The Help and A Visit From the Goon Squad all ensured that I was too busy to do anything but continue reading. I needed to find out what happened next or to put it dryly, to learn how the characters resolved their conflicts.
Flashback to writing my first novel, Unveiled. Oh, the climax was so tearfully beautiful, dripping with its warm fuzziness. I waited with anticipation while my friend read it; surely she’d have nothing but praise for it. Thank God she was a true friend—brutally honesty— or my writing would never have improved.
“Boy, you sure wimped out on the climax.” Not the first words out of her mouth, but the ones I remember most clearly.
“No, I didn’t.” She was wrong. After all, I knew my characters better than she did.
“There’s no way she would’ve said that to him. You totally avoided the entire conflict.” Maybe she did know them better.
“But if I go there, I’m afraid I won’t be able to fix it.” And the novel I’d worked so hard on would crash and burn.
And that was my problem with writing conflict. After he was such a jerk, how could she possibly forgive him? And after she said such hateful bitter things, how could he possibly forgive her? I wasn’t good enough to get them out of that situation.
But I knew my friend was right so I manned up and, armed with a large glass of wine while my family slept, I rewrote the climax. In the wee morning hours, I realized it was a much better story.
And now, though I’m aware of the necessity of conflict and I even enjoy writing it, I find myself avoiding it sometimes. Actually, readers usually point out my cop outs to me. So thanks to the intrepid writers in my writers’ group who don’t let me get away with less than I’m capable of. And for their great ideas. I have some stuff brewing that I’m really looking forward to writing. Tonight with a glass of wine while my family sleeps.
August 2, 2013
I took a college level course in creative writing over the summer. A few hours of class were devoted to reading poetry. Except for two tokens poems by Robert Frost, they were all free verse.
I liked some of the free verse but personally, I have a fondness for the classics: Tennyson, Dickinson, Frost. Free verse reigned supreme in class though. A little bit of pompous literary bias going on, but I overlooked it.
Until we were told to write three poems. That was literally the extent of our instruction into writing poetry. I’ve made the foray into poetry a few times on this blog. Actually, it’s fauxetry because I have no idea how to write poetry. Except for the rhyming. I rhyme and meter with the best of them.
But rhyming was frowned upon. So I tried my hand at free verse. Words flowed out of me, oh so prettily and ornately, and to my credit, not one of them rhymed. And I thought maybe I had some good stuff, until I got this advice from someone who is into poetry:
“Free verse is very complicated and hard to write. You really don’t know what you’re doing. Stick to rhymes and meter.”
Ouch. The message from all corners seemed to be: lesser poets rhyme. And that offended me. So this is the poem I turned in for class, written in bitterness from the depths of my offended heart:
I have a muse:
It’s Dr. Seuss.
His lyrical rhymes
Are not obtuse.
Poems that rhyme
Can be sublime,
Though not now in vogue:
Tennyson, Dickinson, in their time.
Rhyme’s just a game
For ignorant babes.
So, who’s to blame?
Hangs by a noose,
My poet friend was not impressed.
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