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06.03.2013 03:42    Comments: 0    Categories: Writing Conflict      Tags: joy cagil  conflict  fiction  writing  

Conflict exists everywhere: in a family, in a work place, and among people and groups. Conflict is also at the core of any work of fiction. Without conflict there is no drama. Writers may create as elaborate settings and characters as they possibly can, but if characters find no conflict to work with, the story will not go beyond character portrayals or setting descriptions.

For conflict to exist, action is essential. Every action results from another action before it.

If conflict is put under a microscope, its basic structure would be like a compound biological cell made up of action and its opposing action. Thinking toward the origin of the action and the origin of the opposing action is important, because this examination results in a strong backstory; however, the writer must remember that going too far back into the origin may bore the reader.

Since the opposing action is the instigator of a conflict, the easiest way to create conflict is to think of opposites, especially because serious conflict springs from characters as in: messy vs. clean and tidy; moral vs. immoral; faithful vs. fickle; kind vs. cruel.

In Euripides's Medea, when Jason, lacking backbone, deserts Medea, who is decisive, passionate, and strong, love turns to hate and this leads to vengeance. In Somerset Maugham's Of Human bondage, a gentle medical student falls in love with a cruel waitress who mocks him.

Good conflict rises from the two equally strong opposites, both aiming for the same or similar thing. Even in the more complex conflicts, the basis is more or less the same, because the conflict always depends on offense and counter-offense.

Although many variations of using conflict exist, conflict is applied to fiction in four standard ways: static, rising, jumping, and moving with the character.

When characters stay the same at the end of the story, even if there is conflict in the action around them, the conflict is considered static. In the classic mystery genre, the character of the private eye does not change much, although there may be enough conflict inside the episodes.

The rising conflict is when conflict increases in degrees. A story with rising conflict usually has three-dimensional characters, a clear-cut premise, and unity at the end. Hamlet and Othello are excellent examples to rising conflict, in the way each action or feeling triggers another stronger action or feeling in a chain.

Jumping conflict is when conflict suddenly jumps with the abrupt change in the story or in the character. An example to this would be a docile character who sees his wife talking to a man and takes it as adultery; he suddenly turns into a violent character and kills her on the spot.

In the moving conflict, conflict moves according to the traits of the characters and at their pace. Although this may be more or less visible in all stories, this type of conflict usually happens more strongly in psychological fiction. In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky studies the criminal mind in the character of the student Raskolnikov who murders an aged pawnbroker. At first, Raskolnikov believes the killing to be justified, but as the novel progresses, he is tortured by guilt and questions all his beliefs.

Aside from the ways of using conflict, four essential kinds of conflict exist as:

1. Man against man:

One person or group is pitted against another usually in a physical way.
In The Last of the Mohicans Indians and the white men fight against each other. The same pattern happens in a race between two athletes in Chariots of Fire. In The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, man's inhumanity to man leads to rage, rebellion, and to self-respect.

2. Man against himself:

In Jane Austen's Emma, Emma constantly deceives herself. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina also work against themselves while they stand up against social norms.

3. Man against society:

In The Wall by Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Ibbieta attends his own trial after being captured by the Falangists. In Silas Marner by George Eliot, Silas has to deal with the society of Raveloe. In the movie Star Wars, a young man rebels against tyranny. In Meridian by Alice Walker, young activists try to bring an end to racism and segregation.

4. Man against fate, nature, or circumstances of life:

In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, when her husband flees to Africa, Ryna who is left behind has to deal with slavery, racism, and the care of her children. Using Offred's character in Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood tells the story of the subjugation and the dehumanizing of women.

Inside a story, one principal conflict or one principal conflict with several minor ones can exist. Whichever way a writer decides to use conflict, he needs to remember that the conflict he creates can be as unique as who he is.

About the Author

Joy Cagil is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/joycag

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