Where’s the Conflict?
That’s the first question she asked, after reading the short story that the woman handed her from across the table. Being used to the routine of our weekly writers' meet up to critique one another, the woman’s submission for the open reading being the last, her writing being a bit tedious and lofty, I began to lose my focus, and the details of her story had failed to pull me through the murk of my blasé mind. The sudden inquiry jolted me upright. “The conflict?”
“It bores the readers because there is no conflict. That’s the hook of any story, the bait to keep your lines interesting. Without it, there would be no fish, rather go home,” said the harsh analyser, looking the woman writer straight into her hazel eyes. “Give this character a few problems, will you, so that it does not look like she lives in a fairy land, unless she’s Barbie, with her beau Ken in tow. Come on, rock it up a bit, you have the great elements of a love story here, but too plain. Unreal!”
That day, I took out my notebook: “Must have conflict.” I have been mulling on the suggestion every day since. Funny, isn’t it, that most of us go through life determined to avoid any conflict. Yet here I am, illuminated for the first time as a novelist, that conflict is the undeniable crux of any good story, the bottom of the boat that carries it, the root that supports its trunk.
It seems, since that day, all I witness about me is the quest for “conflict.” A dentist can only drill if he discovers a tooth decay, which if not treated, will soon “conflict” with the patient’s dentin, leading to further “conflict”, or disagreement between the person, and his tooth. What else is a psychiatrist but a “conflict digger”? Without the fierce competition between the market’s supply and demand, there would be no viable commerce, no product improvement. Capitalism would collapse. Even religions, which deal with the higher intelligence, the greater sphere of life, were born from the conflicts within the human soul.
Conflict, that’s what makes the juice flow, my friends. Blessed are those who know how to profit from it.