Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: O is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is OPPOSITION.

As a writer who's still trying to learn all I can about writing, one of the things I keep coming across is that the basis for all effective drama is conflict. To hold my reader I have to incorporate conflict, tension, striving against outside forces or inner demons, risk, stakes, and other elements that basically boil down to the same thing – opposition. It doesn't have to be that THE FATE OF THE UNIVERSE hinges on every minor detail of my story, but there better be elements of conflict and opposition, even if it's only at the inner emotional level within a single character.

OK, I get it, and actually, I agree. To make for interesting reading, I need to make characters, scenes, and plot elements that highlight tension, conflict, and opposition.

Who wants to read a story about an average guy with a happy life who does average things and everyone around him is happy, and in the end, everything turns out ordinary and happy?

Not a very interesting story idea, I'm afraid.

But sometimes, in my philosophical moods, I wonder: Why is this so? By relying on tension and conflict, am I appealing to the lower elements within us all to peddle my stories? Am I preying on that same instinct that causes us to gawk at accidents, peer out the windows at neighbors in trouble, and gossip around the water cooler over coworkers cheating on their spouses?

Maybe...But I think there's more to it than that.

We relish the drama and tension and opposition in a good story, but we also cheer for the hero who overcomes it, or at the least, sympathize with the protagonist as they sink under it.

I don't think I'm glorifying suffering and opposition – I'm helping provide readers with an escape from the struggles in their own lives, at least for a short while. Or at least I'm connecting with them on a fundamental level and giving them validation that we ALL endure opposition in some ways.

It's not only what makes a good story. It's what makes us human.

So what do you think?

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Jemima Pett said...

Hi Chris! Nice blog...
I know what you mean about 'why' do we have to have the conflict... The more I read about writing, the more I think my characters have it far too easy. Yet they are engaging and readers get to care about them all the same. They always have a problem to solve and they always have more adventures than they expected in solving them.

The things they are really challenged by and are overcoming may be more subtle though. Things within themselves.

Loving your AtoZ!

.jessica. said...

Yeah, I've definitely had this feeling as well. The traditional writing advice is "conflict on every page" which can feel like a bit much. (It can also make your story drag on forever - at a certain point readers are going to wonder why NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS to your character!) These days I take "conflict on every page" to mean that your character's longing needs to palpable in every moment. They don't have to actually be fighting or going up against something, etc., but they have to want something and they have to know that something else is standing in the way. That gives them motivation and keeps the pages turning. Then, when the major points of conflict do occur, hopefully the reader will want to grit their teeth and dig in with the character.

Great post!

Simon Kewin said...

Great post. Conflict is obviously central to story but I do agree that this doesn't have to mean a fight scene on every page. Just some problem or tension explored or deepened will keep it interesting.

Nicole said...

Excellent point - layers of conflict build the tension.

Chris Fries said...

To ALL: Sorry for the delay in responding! I've been swamped busy lately and have lagged horribly on my responses. Please know that even though I have not replied as quickly as I would have liked, I really, really appreaciate your visit and comment!!!

@Jemima: Thank you so much for your kind words! And inner conflict and oppostition can often be the best kind!

@jesssica: Thank you so much! And I totally agree with you! Getting that sympathy with the characters is vital for your reader.

@Simon: Absolutely! Again -- inner tension can often be the most compelling.

@Nicole: Thank you very much!