Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is Conflict?


- What is Conflict?

Writers will often hear advice like: ‘Write conflict into every page’ or ‘every chapter needs to be centred on a conflict’. Lately, I’ve come across a few people who misunderstand ‘conflict’ to mean ‘confrontation’ and end up trying to write an argument into every scene.

I find this faintly baffling. We’ve all seen TV, read books and watched movies. We know not every scene has an argument in it. Why on earth would you take advice to put a fight in every scene advice seriously?

Conflict, according to my dictionary is:
1. A battle or struggle.
2. The opposition of two forces or things.
3. To be or come into opposition.

The first point is probably the most obvious one, and where the argument idea stems from. However the second one is probably more relevant to writers. A conflict could be a group of scientists trying to escape an island filled with rampaging dinosaurs (Jurassic park) or two lovers being kept apart by a jealous husband on a big boat (Titanic). If your character is caught in a blizzard, he and the blizzards are in opposition, him wanting to survive and the blizzard being, well, cold.

Now you have some idea what a conflict is, let me say: Yes, I believe every scene needs a central conflict. It doesn’t have to be a dinosaur or a blizzard, but without a conflict, not much is happening.

Keep an eye out for a longer version of this writing tip on my tutorials page in my upcoming tutorial on conflict and stakes.

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