Monday, April 8, 2013

Conflict

Writing advice always pushes conflict. There has to be a problem to make the story interesting. Some stories I've read have so much conflict that I want to yell at the writer "Get on with it already!" So there has to be some but not too much.

I just finished reading a book by an author I love that has too little conflict, I think. The main character takes on herculean tasks and, well, just does them. It's a fish-out-of-water story, the old alternate world trope. Normally, I shy away from them. For that reason, I decided to give this one a try. It felt a little light, so I tried to think through why it didn't work for me.

The person from our world gets pulled into a land of magic. She learns how to use it and rids the world of evil...the end. (But it's only book one, so I'm sure she didn't get all the evil.) There is minor conflict in that she has confrontations with various characters and fights in several battles, but she always wins easily.

That might have made for a good set up towards over confidence. Then she hits the big reversal and realizes her own naivete. But even when she faces off with the Big Bad, she does her thing and they all go home. Yes there are consequences - she's physically depleted and friends die. But even that seems glossed over. She sleeps for a week and has a hearty breakfast.

The death of the sidekick is almost an aside. Oh, yeah, by the way, he's dead. She sheds a tear and carries on. That plus the mass destruction she incurs makes her feel like a psychopath. She destroyed a whole country. And she sheds a tear and carries on. What choice did she have? If she didn't kill them all they'd just keep coming after her, right?

That's an argument for a boatload of other stories. There's always that point where you just want the hero to kill off the villain already! Well, that happened in this book and it was sooo unsatisfying. The goal achieve too easily has a lower satisfaction threshold.

So that brings me back to the whole point of this post. Stories have to have appropriate conflict.

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