WRITING: Character and Conflict

The more I try to learn of human character, the more I wonder at the need or justification for the fictional character with body, soul, emotions and those almighty conflicts.  I am resisting a gradual growing tendency to see that if we cared more about the depth of those around us, we might not need to get lost in some novel’s hero or heroine to learn of life. 

I see less interest, more distance with which we deal with friends, family and acquaintances.  This is, of course, a generalized statement borne of notice, watching, reading weblogs, hearing conversations and the like.  But more than ever, aside from tsunami or hurricane or oppression and poverty–anything on a grand scale that we can oooh and aaah and tsk, tsk, ain’t it terrible to show we are caring human beings–we close our ears to the daily woes of others.  It’s the old "Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone" mindset.  Talk to me, but let’s leave it on the professional level, or "Oh God, don’t really let him tell me how things are with him, I only asked "How’s it going?"

Everybody’s busy these days, everybody has their own basket of troubles and often we are just too self-centered or focused to lift the lid to carry someone else’s for a bit.  I’ve done this often enough myself and only recognized it later to my sincere regret.  Not only can it help someone if we merely listened, it can help us as writers too to learn the depths of human nature. 

Why then do we need to create stories without real characters without real troubles?  Is it safer that way?

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3 Responses to WRITING: Character and Conflict

  1. Mark says:

    Not sure what you mean. Are you saying fictional conflicts are too often ramped up to global scales, trying to reach greater impact that way rather than recognizing more fundamental relationships?

    I hear your call to account in this post about regreting a general insensitivity, but I’m losing the point of your relating that observation of life to the treatment of characater in fiction.

    Or are you just steeling yourself for the annual crass commercialism of the holiday season? 😉

  2. Sallie says:

    I think I know why you wrote that post… Perhaps Mark has not been where you have been. Time and conflicts, Ups and Downs make us rough/tough and most imortantly compassionate and humble. I see that in your writing and know I see it in your thoughtful notes to me. Your deepth of spirit is written well between the black and white of here and there. ~Once again, I write… I am so glad YOU are! I am so glad you write.~

  3. susan says:

    Sallie, you’re right that disappointment in reality has a great deal to do with this post. I know that people have long used fiction to seek something that’s missing in their own lives, and what I wondered was why we tend to get involved with fictional characters while wanting to avoid those same “stories” that are happening to real people. I don’t know if I’ve explained this properly, Mark, but in a way, it also relates to your first statement that everyday fundamental relationships can often be as dramatic and intrigueing as anything we can concoct.

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