The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

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A little conflict is good for you, book.

I've started reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice books even though I told myself I wouldn't until all of them were out. But I saw the first two for sale in a used bookstore in Vermont and thought, "Aw, why not? I'm on holiday and can always leave them along the way for someone else to read."

I'll start the third today. I think. I'm enjoying the books--they are well-written and engaging--but I like a touch more leavening sunshine in my reading material.  Don't get me wrong, I can handle dark, but stories with such sustained darkness can affect my moods, and while on holiday, I don't want to go there all the time.  And these being tomes, they take you "there" for a lengthy duration. I need to learn to just set the book down for a bit instead of remaining so immersed. I have a gluttonous nature, though, so that is hard.

As it often does, this bout of reading has me thinking of my own books. One thing Mr. Martin excels at is conflict.  One thing I do not excel at is....yeah, you guessed it: conflict. I've bemoaned this before and I don't want to moan again, but I do want to think aloud a little bit about it in hopes that it will help me crystalize this once and for all. I want to write in the clashes and tension from the very first. They have to be an integral part of the story, not an afterthought.

I know that. Yet I shun conflict. I tend to write angsty scenes of characters all alone. Whenever I have a germ of discord, I rip it out or prune it. I don't let people have their own agendas. Which points to another weakness of mine, characterization. But this is a moan ramble about conflict. One weakness at a time, thank you.

So, while reading Martin's books, I finally realized why I could not move on with Qeoe's next chapter in Witherwilds. I was in the throes of setting up another solitary angst scene: Qeoe discontent and grumbling. Oh, I had one tiny verbal exchange, but then she went back to brooding.


And pointless. She is surrounded by people she doesn't like, who believe differently than she does, who are doing something she is against and who want her to do it, too. There are countless opportunities for on-page, authentic conflict. I just have to capitalize on them.

To that effect, a few things for me to remember:

- Personality

Characters, like people in real life, do not get along with or like everyone in their entourage. Squabbles, though, should be pertinent to the plot or character development, not just something exploited to have a  semblance of tension.

- Agenda

Everyone has his or her own agenda. I don't have to create false, hyped-up conflict; I don't have to impose non-characteristic actions, thoughts, or feelings on characters to get action.  I just need to find the right character with the right conflicting agenda to set against my protags. Many times in fiction, I feel that there is a never a dearth of Bad Things happening to MCs. The problem, for me, with all this Bad is that it feels formulaic, an overload of author piling suffering on character because that's what someone decided we should do to tell a compelling story.

I think a good way to avoid that is a) use conflicting agendas (real, not for-the-story constructed ones), b) have stakes that matter (fantasy or no, it doesn't have to be saving the world to be a stake that matters), and c)...

- Leaven, leaven, leaven.

I cry harder if I've laughed first.
Tags: musing amuses the muse, that thing called writing, witherwilds

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