Conflict: Where a Story Begins

Sometimes it seems as if most books and movies today are glorified comic books, epic battles between the good and the impossibly evil. Conflicts in which there are no shades of gray must be satisfying for many people, but I like a little more subtlety in my conflicts, a little more reality.

In a world that seems to be run by the major corporations, the stories where a lone hero takes on a megalithic corporation, brings down the owner of the company, and saves the world just are not plausible. Though I’m sure the presidents of the major corporations think they are indispensable, they are not. If they are eliminated, there will always be others to take their place, and the corporations will go on doing whatever it is that they do.

Because I know this and cannot escape it even in a world of my own creation, the conflicts in my books tend to be less clearly defined. Of course I have heroes and villains, but the villains are not always dastardly ones, though my other characters may perceive them as such. The villains are the heroes of their own story, and though a corporation is often the villains’ vehicle, my heroes don’t bring it down.

I like my heroes to find a romantic partner, a co-protagonist. It seems to dissipate the energy of the story if the two are always in conflict. I prefer it when they bond together in their struggle against fate (or an employee of a corporation as the personification of fate). To me, the biggest villain around is fate. What is more unfair, more murderous, more disastrous than fate?

My heroes never bring on their fate. Perhaps my books would be more dramatic if they did, but I cannot sympathize with characters who are the cause of their own problems. And why do they have to when life itself is always ready to cause problems for them?

When fate comes knocking on the door, everything changes. And that’s when a real story, not a comic book, begins.

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One,  and A Spark of Heavenly Fire now available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.

6 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, life, Pat Bertram, writing

6 responses to “Conflict: Where a Story Begins

  1. dellanioakes

    Oh, conflict! How hard that is to come up with sometimes. I agree, life hurls conflict at a person so fast, they don’t need the added conflict thrust upon them. However, I do like to see how my characters react when they do. I, like you, enjoy a more realistic conflict.

    For example: Woman in disasterous relationship meets a new man who helps her resolve her conflict, retool her mangled life and build a new life with the new man.
    Or: Young man who is intelligent and talented has inner conflict, feelings of incompetency, because of a dystfunctional childhood. Fate intervenes, he meets a good woman, she is being threatened, he protects her from harm & gains confidence as he fights for her safety.

    I like to see how ordinary people react in extraordinary circumstances. Can the hero face down the villain? Can he overcome his own foibles? For the answer to these and other impertinent questions, tune in next time!

  2. I don’t do large corporations either, Pat. In my new book, it’s a small company that went out of business, leaving a polluted mess, and the small town characters who backed it. The protag has a female sidekick. There are some sparks, but no romance…as yet. It’s the first of a series.

    Good look at conflict.

    http://chestercampbell.blogspot.com

  3. mickeyhoffman

    I like characters to have internal conflicts, like a decision to make between what is advantageous to them vs. what is the honest course of action, etc. There’s nothing wrong with a good page turner about a few normal folks going up some big baddie if the plot is well done, even if those are usually farfetched.

    Maybe I like reading fantasy books because there’s so much room for shades of good and evil when all things are possible! Zap that magic!

  4. That last paragraph really says it all Pat. Can I quote you to our writers’ group? It’s the shades of black and white that give a story the subtlety of color.

  5. Sheila, quote all you want. I am flattered that you would want to!

  6. I don’t care for unrealistic conflict either. I want realistic situations and realistic conflict.

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