Robin Williams teaches the Two-Headed Monster about CONFLICT
Conflict is not a novel concept. (No pun intended.) We’ve all known that conflict existed and was sometimes necessary since we were kids. We may have learned it from Sesame Street. (For an even better example, you can preview an episode where Mother Goose teaches Elmo and Abby about conflict here.)
Conflict in our stories is essential. We know this. When I began my most recent WIP, I started with a character from my first novel. He was a kind, happy, helpful kid. I thought I’d like to spend some time in his head, so I decided to give him his own book. Here’s the problem: In order to give him his own story, I had to throw a lot of conflict into his life. I had to take his happy childhood and tear it apart. It felt mean, in a way. But it was necessary not only for purposes of my story, but for him to grow.
We know we need conflict in our stories, but it’s important to remember that growth comes from another kind of conflict as well: the conflict between manuscript and readers. When I send my writing out to critique partners or beta readers or (yikes!) agents, I can’t help but think, “I hope they love it!” And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But I have to remind myself that, like my characters, I learn most when there is conflict. When the pages come back with lots of red, it means that there are ideas and opportunities for me and my story.
Because conflict, for both characters and writers, is what ultimately leads to growth.