I am in the middle of writing a book about a friendship and came upon an epiphany: I cannot write the story unless I include conflict, within the characters’ own conscience and between the two characters themselves. Without conflict, I realized, we never learn the measure of ourselves or one another. Furthermore, without conflict we cannot create – nor can energy be created.
First and foremost creating a story without conflict would be boring: ‘Sam and Frodo set out on an adventure and they made it to Mordor without any mishaps, troubles, or quarrels.’ OR ‘Sam and Frodo set out on an adventure, but their bond was nearly shattered by Gollum and the burden of The Ring.’ Which provides the richer content to work with? Which scenario allows us a peek into the universal human condition of the struggle between good and evil? Secondly, we owe it to our readers to provide a roller coaster ride of emotion as we couch some conflict within finely tuned sentences and long phrases of detail. It is after all, the very thing that keeps them turning pages. Finally, the greatest challenge we face as writers is to resolve a story and resolve it correctly. Without any tension to resolve, there is no reason to write.
Enter conflict. Welcome tension. Make yourself at home dissonance.
As I began to explore the different causes that might induce tension into the relationship I am creating, I became aware that our entire existence, really, is comprised entirely of tension and conflict. I also noticed that much of the time the dynamics involved in whatever conflict one might examine produces some astounding sources of energy.
As far as relationships are concerned, I find that as I mold the two characters in my story, their inner conflicts as well as their outer conflicts literally end up dictating the path of the narrative. I have to create them in such a way to bring balance to the overall storyline, which means they must be somewhat opposites in order for balance to occur. Hence, the way I create the book depends on the conflicts I use with my characters, the tension within their relationship and the dissonance they feel towards their outside circumstances. These are the blueprints to my story, the rest is decorating, finding the right colors, and getting the right ambiance.
There are other kinds of tension that produce energy. As I sit outside to write, a pleasant breeze flows through the patio. I am reminded that wind is caused by the meeting of a Low Pressure and a High Pressure weather system coming together and the air moves in an effort to create a balance between the two. Where there is great disparity between the systems, huge storms can occur. The conflict of air movement between pressure systems allows us to harness the energy in places where wind is produced steadily and regularly, we light our homes and streets with it.
Our sun provides light and warmth to us primarily because it is one big bright ball of elemental conflict. The nuclear reaction at the core of our star pushes energy out while the weight of the star creates a vast amount of gravity that pushes inward. Once the core runs out of hydrogen gravity takes over, the conflict is resolved, and the star dies. For the billions of years this delicate balance of ongoing energy conflict occurs however, we are provided a thriving life on this small rock.
How about if we break things down to some of the smallest particles we know? Remember our basic chemistry class wherein we learned how the water molecule was formed? Two hydrogens attach to one oxygen because of the number of positive and negative protons and electrons each possesses, which allows them to come into perfect balance. They are opposites and in this case the conflict resolves itself by creating a balance, as well as the substance most crucial to our existence.
Without conflict or tension there simply cannot be ….. life. Conflict is never easy and for the most part I would be willing to bet that, given the choice between fight or flight, the latter would nearly always be our preference. But as writing, and life, have taught me, dealing with the conflict and resolving it not only strengthens our relationships, it provides us with infinite energy as well.