Death, Destruction and Despair – Writing Conflict

I’m working on the synopsis for my next Splintered Lands story (bless them, they want me to write more) and I reached a point this morning where I threw down my mechanical pencil and whined ‘this is boooooooooring! Where’s the death and the bleakness and the depression?’

At which point I had an epiphany and wrote Death, Destruction, Despair in my notebook.

You see, Splintered Lands is a fantastic world to write in, particularly for a new writer like myself, because it is so unrelentingly awful to its inhabitants. I am constantly reading how we must include conflict (on three levels, don’t forget – have a look at what Jodi Hedlund says on the subject) but, and here is the real problem, I hate conflict.

I grew up surrounded by more or less permanent conflict (not a war zone, don’t worry, nothing so dramatic) so now, understandably, I go out of my way to avoid it. Particularly in my writing which is, after all, set in worlds of my own creation where, supposedly I control what happens. I want it all to be rainbows and butterflies and la la la. *sigh* In case you didn’t know it already, this does not make for thrilling reading. So, I need conflict.

I already know that For the Love of Gods needs more conflict. Not that it doesn’t already have any, but there aren’t nearly enough arguments among the good guys. I also need to include some more bad guys, but that’s a different issue. For the moment, Splintered Lands is offering me the perfect learning opportunity by forcing me to write in a world which more or less epitomises conflict.

Writing my synopsis I was having trouble coming up with anything interesting. Ok, who am I kidding? I am having trouble coming up with anything interesting. At first I thought I was on to something, then realised I was just replaying the events of the first story, so that draft went out the window. Then I thought I was having some good ideas, but soon realised that was also replaying the events of the first story – it didn’t go out the window as I can use the ideas for this story or another, but I’m still lacking a story, you know, that central idea that hooks you in. The first one was obvious. The second one, not so much.

This is why people have such issues with sequels. I remember reading a quote by Sarah Harrison, the author of The Flowers of the Field. The Flowers of the Field was a bestseller and the publisher wanted her to write a sequel. But all the storylines had been neatly tied off in the first book and she had to introduce a whole new character in the sequel in order to get fresh conflict into the story. And it wasn’t a bestseller.

I know my main characters’ lives are far from over and that the issues they faced in the first story still remain, but I am loath to inflict more pain and suffering on them than they have already had to endure. That said, writing is about conflict. As the man in The Princess Bride said, Life is pain. Writing must reflect that, whether we, as writers, like it or not. It’s probably also be a good idea to remember that your characters aren’t real people.

I hope.

Please note voting continues on the second episode of the Elemental Races -Earth and Sky – through Sunday midnight (US Pacific Coast time)

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About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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5 Responses to Death, Destruction and Despair – Writing Conflict

  1. Liza Kane says:

    Oh my, I just commented on a blog post about villains…and if mine were villain-y enough. Though you talk more about conflict, I feel like what I’m going through in my own WIP is pertinent, because I don’t have a problem with infusing evil and creeptastic weirdness into the story. What I foresee as a problem, though, is the Final Showdown scene. One that I want to portray like the Battle of Helms Deep, or the final battle in Return of the King, and not the fizzle at the end of Breaking Dawn.
    Thank goodness writing is in the re-writing, and I can keep going into the WIP to polish and make more thrilling with each go!
    Happy writing!

    • Hahahahahaha I have the opposite problem – my final battle scene is pretty good, I think, but the rest of the book is a little lacking. I mean, there is conflict, but it’s good vs. bad conflict, rather than good individuals vs. each other, or even vs. themselves. I need to work on that. As you say, writing is in the re-writing and I’m somewhat conflicted (ha!) on how I feel about that!!

      Happy writing to you too!

  2. Pingback: Thursday Thoughts on the WIP « Redeeming The Time

  3. Oh, I LOVE to torture my characters. I love the fighting, the arguments, the not-speaking-to-one-another, the never letting go of grudges and the pain of having to watch a loved one suffer. I love the happy ending that turns into an even more horrible beginning. I love the trying your hardest and making the best of a bad situation. I’m even a fan of tragedies (that’s why I like mythology so much!). It may be because I’ve had such a boring life myself, or it may be because I’m a horrible person on the inside. Either way, no rest for the characters of the wicked.

    • Hahahahahahaha Well, I’m glad someone enjoys it! I have to say, I’m good at getting physical conflict in, so my poor main character has been much abused. Not so bad with the mental conflict, arguments between friends, etc, etc. But I’m getting there 😀

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