“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” Proverbs 26:20
We live in a magic world, but it is also a world of conflict. There seems to be no lack of it, fed and spread by talebearers. I myself try to avoid conflict and promote peace, and I am certain that I am not the only one. After all, don’t we all dream of a world in which all war, strife, and conflict have ceased? Don’t we all long for “The Kingdom of Summer” described by Stephen Lawhead in Taliesin? If that is true, if a world without conflict is our hearts’ desire, then why is conflict the main character in our stories?
One would think, judging from all that is written about conflict, that we cannot survive without it. Talebearers depend upon it and read books, articles, and blogs about it. They attend seminars and lectures about types of conflict, how to create conflict, how to raise the level of conflict, how to use conflict to increase tension, and so on.
Well, here’s a conflict: I don’t want to write about conflict–at least not in the way I see it presented. To me, the best conflict is like a math problem in that (1) it has established parameters; (2) it obeys the laws of logic; (3) the process to resolve the conflict is a learning experience; (4) the resolution makes sense; and (5) the journey in resolving the conflict is just as satisfying as reaching the destination. To borrow from George Polya:
1. The conflict is understood in terms of its history, source, and nature.
2. There is a plan to deal with the conflict; several options are available.
3. The conflict is addressed during which theories many be tested.
4. The conflict is satisfactorily resolved.
5. The process is discussed and evaluated for its efficacy and application to other situations.
I think the most important aspect of any conflict is the “why?” – there must be a reason for the conflict beyond “Something Happened.” And I prefer it to be subtle, complex rather than complicated.
When I encounter conflict in a story, I want it to guide the characters from one stage of growth to another, one that fosters higher order thinking and enlightenment. But I do not think that type of conflict is popular because it’s not on the best-seller lists or in book reviews. Instead it’s all drama and unresolved issues where the characters act out of their reptilian and mammalian brains. That is not for me. Life holds enough drama and issues without my hunting for it in the books I read.
So my solution to my particular conflict is to write the kind of stories that I want to read. If others want to read them, that is great. But if not, it still remains a very satisfying and interesting journey.