24 December 2007


For some reason in this holiday season, surrounded by relatives, my mind is turning to conflict. :)
As writers, we are told we must have a conflict in our stories. But what is conflict? I took a class a while back (and blogged about it) in which conflict was defined as a person obstructing the protagonist's goals. Forces of nature, catastrophes, etc. were NOT considered worthy conflicts. Older and wiser(?) now, I have to say I disagree. IMHO, conflict is any person, force, neurosis, insert-your-idea-here that opposes the protagonist. I know many writers would disagree with me, including some in my critique group.

What do you think?

Send Electric Spec your conflict-laden stories. :)


ssas said...
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ssas said...

I differentiate between conflict and obstacle by virtue of purpose. A conflict is caused by something or someone meaning to hinder the protag's progress toward one of their goals. An obstacle is just that--something or someone in the way without meaning to be. So in that case: a storm is an obstacle; the same storm caused by a malevolent god to harm the protag is a conflict. A minor difference, some might think, but to me every story must have conflict, not necessarilly obstacles.

A fine and intriguing line can be drawn between the two when you've got an antag or character hindering the protag's goals while meaning to serve another purpose (perhaps striving to achieve their own goals). Examples fail me this Christmas afternoon. But in other words, it's intent, not result, that determines the difference between conflict and obstacle.

These definitions split hairs, though. I believe the best conflict does, in fact, come from opposing characters. A character is infinitely more intriguing than a storm.

lesleylsmith said...

Obviously a strong antagonist is good. However, I don't think it's a requirement for a good story or novel. Do you? :) What's the last novel or story you read with a strong antagonist?