Monday Mayhem – I’m conflicted

One of the cornerstones of writing any type of fiction is the need for conflict. At the start of every project, writers ask themselves at least two very basic questions:

What does our hero/heroine want most?

What is standing in their way?

Obviously, we delve deeper into the opposing forces as we move forward with a book, but those are the bare-bones basics. Internal and external forces are equally important, but require a different approach. This is where I stumble over one piece of oft-repeated writing advice.

We’re often told to imagine that ultimate goal, and then throw obstacle after obstacle into the path our protagonist has to take to get there.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion Ahead

I think there are times when an author can insert too much conflict into a story. As a matter of fact, I just read a book where it was literally one thing after another, page after page. No downtime. No breather. For me or the heroine. Nothing but one supposedly funny/sad/mortifying moment stepping on the heels of the one in front of it.

After the first few hits, I stopped buying in.

I know it’s fiction, but no one’s life is that non-stop. I mean, at some point, someone has to have a bio break, right? I’m telling you I would have locked myself in a filthy gas station bathroom and never come out if I were that poor heroine.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion #2 Coming At You

The other night, Jewels was talking about the big grovel scene in books… You know the kind, the one where one character does something so unthinkable that the only way they can possibly be forgiven is if they are willing to completely prostrate themselves at the other’s feet.

Yeah, I’m not a fan.

It’s not that I don’t want or appreciate a decent grovel as much as the next girl, it’s just that I don’t think they happen all that often in real life. Therefore, the whole set-up-overblown conflict/grand gesture/grovel comes off a bit too Hollywood for me.

I’m not saying a little groveling can’t take place. But, in my experience, there’s more awkward silence after a big blow-up than grandiloquent speechifying. I’d even go so far as to say that once we get past the oh-so-dramatic adolescent stage, most conflict is resolved with less than a paragraph’s worth of words.

And forgiveness doesn’t usually come with the big prize, but rather a small gesture.

Internal conflict usually plays a big part in my novels. Sure, I add a dash of external to turn up the heat a bit, but to me the story comes from the inside out, not the outside in.

Authors are frequently told to torment their characters, but I don’t. I figure they’re better at tormenting themselves than I will ever be. I just try to capture it all and put it on the page.

How about you? Are you a fan of the grovel? Has anyone ever hit you with a grand gesture. Tell your tale, and I might be inclined to give away a signed copy of Love & Rockets in celebration of this week’s exoplanet discovery!

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4 Replies to “Monday Mayhem – I’m conflicted”

  1. Yes, I was a little confused by that concept of the groveling. If a person is made to feel that groveling is required it seems too over the top. A sincere apology yes. Groveling not so much.

  2. I’m not a super fan of the big speech at the end either, and it’s way overused. Even a grand gesture can seem empty and unsatisfying. It kind of depends on the conflict. If there’s *one thing* that in particular is causing the H/h to be separated or unconnected, then fix that *one thing*. It gets harder if it’s a series of things, and maybe then a giant speech/gesture is in order. Although depending on the litany of failures, the wronged party might just be better off riding off into the sunset alone!

  3. My least favourite conflict is when a H or H refuse to maintain a relationship because either one of then had been hurt in a previous relationship. I can’t stand that internal battle. Those tend to be a DNF for me.
    I can’t really think of any over the top grovelling scenes from memory. I am sure that I have read them though.

  4. I’ve never really grovelled, nor have I been on the receiving end of a good grovel. I’ve had a lot of Gravol, though. Not the same thing? How about gravy? Mmm, gravy. I love your line about letting your characters torment themselves. I do more of that too, and less of the external conflict. Must have picked it up from you. 😉 Great post!

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