Adventures in NaNo-land – Conflict

November 13, 2012 at 2:40 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , )

When I was attending a lecture by Brendon Sanderson on story structure, he mentioned he thought that conflict was the most important part of the story – that you didn’t really have a story without it. While “stream of consciousness” and “a-day-in-the-life” fiction writers would disagree that it is absolutely necessary, conflict is a significant element of fiction. The problem is, there are some less educated critics out there who don’t understand exactly what conflict is. Conflict does not have to exist as an in-your-face physical clash, a blatant battle of good versus evil or an obvious “man-struggles-with his environment” set-up. Conflict can exist in subtler forms. Sometimes the struggle is an internal one, a character battling with his or her own inner demons, or conflicting beliefs (“I love the assassin but I can’t support someone who murders for a living” for example.) The direct conflicts in the story might be an extension of an indirect conflict – the main villain may be beyond the reach of the heroes who are forced to tackle his disruptive force from a distance. Or there may be layers to the conflict or an assortment of smaller conflicts coming together to create one big problem.

In my latest chapter, “Trouble” there is direct conflict, when Oaván and Dáidu confront their chieftain regarding the treatment of their family and Lieđđi, and underlying internal conflict, as Dáidu struggles to accept the truth about who he really is. My stories tend to be rife with conflict, but whether or not a reader sees that depends on exactly what they are looking for.

I was planning on posting “Trouble” to tonight, but the server isn’t working properly, so the link will have to wait until tomorrow. I’ll close instead with an excerpt:

Heaibmu was sitting in the tent with three other men, discussing concerns for the settlement during the upcoming cold season. Not wanting to interrupt, Oaván turned to leave again, but Dáidu grabbed his arm and held it with a grip so tight Oaván thought his fingers might leave dents in the bone.

“We’re doing this now,” Dáidu said quietly.

Heaibmu stopped and looked at them, standing in his doorway. He waved his hand to hush the others with him.

“This is about the girl – isn’t it?” he asked, scowling. He was a larger, darker man with a great deal of presence and this made him very intimidating.

“It is,” Dáidu acknowledged.

“I have business to attend to. I don’t have time for this now.”

“Then we’ll wait,” Dáidu replied, crossing his arms and giving the chieftain a challenging stare.

Oaván found himself immediately uncomfortable. This was supposed to be about him and Lieđđi, but somehow it had also become about Dáidu and Heaibmu. Oaván’s issue had just been an excuse. He felt a little used at that moment.

When the other men had left, Heaibmu gestured for the brothers to sit.

“It is customary to ask for a meeting with the chieftain, rather than just come barging in uninvited,” he said sternly.

Dáidu seized upon this right away. “And it is customary to include someone in discussions where deals are being made regarding their future, but you chose to bargain with our mother behind our backs. Apparently, this was not the first time. We have come to tell you that we are adults and Jaská no longer has the right to speak for us. We reject the agreement she made regarding Lieđđi and how long she can stay. We want her to have the option to stay here for good, if that’s what she chooses. We don’t think it’s fair to limit the hospitality of Anár to the point where she is healed.”

Dáidu did not attempt to hide the bitterness in his voice. It made Oaván shiver. His older brother was clearly enjoying this confrontation. Suddenly, Oaván was regretting that he had agreed to this.

More tomorrow J


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