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03.06.2011 19:14    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Elements  Fiction Writing  Creative Writing  Writing Conflict  Writing Craft      Tags: conflict  basic principles of writing  lajos egri  

Even people who know little about the mechanics of writing are bored by a static play, a play which has little conflict or spotty conflict.

There are four types of conflict:

  1. foreshadowing,
  2. static,
  3. jumping, and
  4. slowly rising.

Foreshadowing conflict should appear at the beginning of the play. Crisis is the hint or the promise of future conflict. In the motion picture Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, almost the entire picture consisted of foreshadowing conflict. The soldiers were training for a mission so dangerous that utmost secrecy was necessary. They weren't even allowed to discuss the mission among themselves. The soldiers' training, that could have been monotonous to watch, proved enrapturing to the audience because of the foreshadowing of the life-or-death mission planted in the very beginning.

In Romeo and Juliet the families were such bitter enemies that even the servants of the respective households were ready to kill each other on sight. What chance did the young lovers have?

When Nora in A Dol's House naively thinks her husband Helmer will be grateful that she forged her father's signature to save his life, we wait for him to find out, knowing that Helmer is the epitome of honesty and can never forgive.

Future events, future conflicts, must be foreshadowed at the beginning.

In static conflict the conflict remains on an even keel, rising only momentarily. Since life constantly changes and nothing in life is ever static, static conflict is found only in bad writing.

Arguments and quarrels create static conflict, unless the characters are growing and changing during the arguments. Every movement, every line of dialogue must further the action toward the final goal.

In jumping conflict the characters jump from one emotional plane to another, eliminating the necessary transitional steps.

Nature never jumps. A seed planted in the soil one day does not produce a flower the next. During the interval many transitions take place before the plant finally blooms. In the play, the author plants the seeds of his characters' growth, and slowly, step by step, they grow, the changes being witnessed by the spectators.

Static and jumping are the two deadly mistakes of all writing. They must be avoided at all cost.

If you wish to avoid jumping or static conflict you must know in advance what road your characters must travel, for instance:

  1. Drunkenness to sobriety
  2. Sobriety to drunkenness
  3. Timidity to brazenness
  4. Brazenness to timidity
  5. Simplicity to pretentiousness
  6. Pretentiousness to simplicity
  7. Felity to infidelity

The above represent two poles, the first the starting point, the second the arrival point. If you master this simple rule you'll have rising conflict throughout your story or play.


CONFLICT: Basic Principles of Writing by Lajos Egri

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