I dislike conflict. Often, I find myself obsessing over arguments that have taken place trying to work out resolutions or how to avoid them all together. Lately, it seems like my role in life is as a referee, between friends, family colleagues and even on occasion, strangers. As soon as I can feel a shift in the air, the almost stifling silence or subtle twitch in someone’s muscle before they’re about to start a fight, my brain goes to work, trying to find the right weapon in my own arsenal of conflict diffusing tools to cool things down. Is it going to be the soothing voice, humour, misdirection or bribery? In short, what is the smoothest, fastest way to make sure everyone is going to get along before the bomb goes off and that sickening tension in my stomach kicks in?
In spite of all this, we need conflict. Without it, there is no growth, no fierce exchanging of opposing opinions, no development. How else can we explore different points of view and test the strength of our convictions? (I’m thinking non-violent)
As writers, conflict is absolutely necessary to more a story forward. There must be action, a mission or challenge to overcome, or there is no story.
This conflict can be anything that challenges our protagonist and drives them out of their comfort zone into action.
So, I’m going to lay out some challenges for you to explore as part of this writing exercise.
1. Two colleagues at work are in disagreement. The protagonist must diffuse the situation or take a side. One option is fair and being expressed by a new or junior member of the team. The other view is unfair, but easy and expressed by a more senior member of the organisation. What is the debate and what does the protagonist do?
2. Three siblings discover that their deceased father was having an affair before he died. One wants to remain silent, one wants to tell their mother, the third is caught in the middle. What sort of issues could this bring? Write a scene in which the three debate.
3. The main character accidentally runs over his neighbour’s beloved dog. Does he tell? Cover it up? Map out the consequences of either decision.
4. A girl is sitting on a park bench and witnesses someone drop their wallet. They are still in shouting distance when she picks it up. Assume there is someone else watching her without her knowledge. What could happen depending on the action she takes?