Writing tip: Don’t dodge conflict

Confession: I’m a chicken. A big ol’ chicken. If something scares me, I won’t confront it. Well, I’ll try not to confront it and then eventually get around to it, but it always amounts to a mighty procrastination.

But here’s the thing – I know its lazy writing to refuse to confront difficult stuff.

Exhibit A: A television show I’ve just finished binging on (There’s confession #2 – I go ages without watching telly and then I binge on a TV series. I blame my husband. He’s my enabler).

This television show, which may be about the England of Old, and may feature an aristocratic family and their staff, often indulges in lazy writing by refusing to give the viewers a close look at the raw emotional material in the storyline. It frustrates me to no end, and has single-handedly become the reason I’ve had to learn to confront the hard stuff.

In this television show which shall remain nameless, the build-up to big moments is incredible. The tension is palpable. You find yourself wondering “How will they tell X about this? How will X react? This is the end of the world for character Y.” You are on tenterhooks. You are dying a thousand deaths. You can’t wait to follow character Y into a room with character X to observe the tension of the situation pour itself into an explosive conversation. You want to see reactions, emotions (even though its English), the whole shebang.

But that never happens. You simply see the characters walk into a room together and then the camera pans away to something infinitely less tense and suspenseful. Then miraculously, the characters emerge from their huddle with a way through. As a viewer I feel robbed. I find myself almost yelling at the TV ( a very un-English thing to do).

“NO! COME ON! I WANTED TO SEE THE GOOD STUFF! UGH!

This has become my biggest writers pet peeve: The way that some authors/screenwriters shy away from the good stuff because they don’t quite want to think their way through to the deep and even disturbing emotional territory their characters have reached. It’s lazy, to put it bluntly.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t done it multiple times myself. Don’t you hate it when you do the thing you hate?

I understand why you might find it easier to cut to the next scene instead of delving into the showdown. I get it. You have to go deep into your own thought processes and reactions in order to write. You have to do this not once, but once for each character involved in the conflict.

It is, ironically, conflicting. It can even be uncomfortable. But if your writing doesn’t confront you, it isn’t going to be confronting for your reader.

I don’t know about you, but when I write, I often know the conflict is coming and there is this mounting sense of dread. It’s suspenseful, both for writer and reader. The worst possible thing to do is to have all that suspense and build up, and not to reward it with an awesome conflict.

I know its not easy to write. But do it, I say!

Rant over.

P.S. Sorry the feature image has nothing to do with the blog entry. I really couldn’t find something to encapsulate “Don’t dodge conflict.” Oh well. YOLO!

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