August 11, 2013

Aggressive In A Passive Kind Of Way

Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , , at 4:30 PM by Dawne Webber

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.

This impacts my writing and not in a positive way. This quote is from one of my pre-conference assignments shows how important conflict is to a novel:

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.

relationship, couple, marriage, forgivenessThis may be the inspiration for my next novel.

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3 Comments »

  1. I, too, am conflict-phobic. Only I never lash out. I always stay quiet.

    As for how this affects my writing, I think it helps me. I let my characters say and do things that I don’t dare. They act as my outlet for the “me” who wishes I could be calm, cool, collected, and contentious. I put them in tough situations and make them get themselves out–and not by wimping out, either.

    It’s quite cathartic! ;)

    Like

    • Dawne Webber said,

      Do you/your favorite character always win these conflicts? ;)

      I know a writer who uses real people in her stories and kills them off (in the story, of course) if she gets mad at them.

      Like

      • No, different characters win and lose. I like to mix it up, because that’s the way it is in life. My characters are neither always strong or always weak. They surprise me by doing things that surprise themselves.

        But each character has an essential quality–both a flaw and a positive trait that they display throughout the story, hopefully making them believable and keeping the plot line form going to wonky.

        So far, I don’t have a “favorite” character. You’d think it would be my main character, but I’m not so sure…

        Like


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