Conflicted about Conflict

I had yet another awesome meeting with my critique partners last Sunday. And as usual, I spent a better part of our time together professing my love/gratitude towards them and how much they push me as a writer.

See, I have a problem.

A big one.

I hate conflict.

Don’t like it in my life. Or in my books. I’m actually one of those weird people who is quite happy reading a book where everyone gets along and every wonderful thing is described in detail. Okay, maybe I like a little conflict. But really, when I read a book that has a ton of conflict or suspense, I turn into a hot mess.

  • I read ahead to see what happens so I’m not wondering if someone gets hurt or dies.
  • I scrunch my shoulders up and contort my face.
  • I clench the book.
  • I find myself thinking bad thoughts about the characters, that way I’m not sooo sad if they die or get hurt or do something stupid.

So, if I can barely read it, you can probably guess that I have a hard time writing it. But conflict is like the backbone of a story. Right? Right! My old writer’s group had a saying. Whenever I would try to avoid putting my characters in a tough spot, they would say, “Eryn, you’re having dinner.” This is because, yes, more than once, my characters stopped dealing with a problem. To. Eat. Dinner.

True story. So you see why I need help.

I’m getting better. I promise. Mainly because of the awesome people who read my work every week, my critique buddies. They catch my big misses and my small ones. They’re helping me see them earlier than at the critique table. Most of the time. But last week they caught something big, something awesomely big that I didn’t even see because of my love of all things peaceful.

But they love my characters, too. And it’s because of that that I know I can trust their suggestions. It’s such an amazing feeling, to have people take so much of their time and energy to help make your story the best it can be.

So as much as people say writing is a solitary thing, I’m happily finding out that it isn’t. Yes, the imagining, the writing, the typing, the playing out scenes in my head, the having conversations in my head with my characters, that is all me. But the polishing, the oh-my-god-I’m-stuck-please-help-me, the you-totally-missed-this-opportunity stuff is very much a group effort. Something I’m so thankful for. Something that I’m not sure how I’d still be writing without.

Anyway, thanks to my group and thanks to the rest of you for reading.  =)


5 thoughts on “Conflicted about Conflict

  1. Chelsea Mathews says:

    I love the blog on conflict in a story. I have to say that I have felt the same way since high school when I started to learn about story structuring and was disappointed that with out conflict, there is no story. It was even to the point that I tried to prove Mrs. Davies wrong in my head and find a good story that did not contain any conflict in it. And to my disappointment, I could not think of a single one. Darn it! Even now, I find myself sticking to check-flick movies where I can tell the plot’s conflict is not based on overcoming a lie in the relationship, because I cannot even stand it! How ridiculous am I?! Congrats on the new blog, Erin!

  2. John C Pelkey says:

    Eating dinner is OK. But you need to wash the dishes after (conflict). If you don’t wash the dishes after dinner, the dishes pile up. Then, you have to make an extra effort to clean up the huge mess, and everything is out of whack. So, dinner, dishes, dinner, dishes. Keep things orderly, and avoid the big conflict until you need it.

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