Making the Best of Things

Sometimes life can be cruel. It leaves us wondering if anything will ever come right or if the struggle continues forever. OK, not forever. But that’s something none of us likes to contemplate. The end of it all.

The more difficult life is, the more interesting. This works especially well when you’re writing fiction, as I do. Allowing my characters an easy life is something which would not rest kindly with my readers. They’d say ‘so that’s alright then‘ and put down the book. Vonnegut once said that the best way to kill a story is for love’s young dream to find fulfillment. Atom bombs could be falling everywhere and all your reader feels is ‘as long as they’ve got each other, that’s all that counts.’

Conflict is the watchword for a good story. Not necessarily the fighting sort, though that can work well, but anything that prevents your protagonist getting what he or she wants. The more things you can throw at them the better. If they ever get close to a happy ending quickly snatch it away. That’s when they become doubly upset. And twice as interesting.

There does have to be some progress and resolution, even a happy ending isn’t a bad thing to offer as long as it is the end. There has to have been trouble and toil all along the way if we’re going to feel any pleasure or satisfaction from it.

Boy meets girl, he loves her, she loves him, they get together. Not a story anyone wants to read. Not for long, in any case.

Boy meets girl, she loves someone else, he becomes disillusioned and falls into a life of crime. Better, but still not very interesting.

Boy meets girl, they love each other but there’s a big misunderstanding and they don’t realise the real situation. Every time they interact, the love grows stronger but the confusion gets worse. In the end they both settle for someone else. Then they meet up years later and gradually become aware of how they really felt. Not my cup of tea but I’ve seen this plot in lots of books and films.

Conflict then resolution. That’s what’s interesting.

If you’re writing something, especially a short story, get the conflict right.

In real life, unlike fiction, there’s rarely any form or resolution. Have you noticed that the thing that you’re preoccupied with at the moment is something that wasn’t on the radar yesterday and certainly will be well forgotten in a year’s time? That’s because it will have been superceded by something much bigger and scarier.

My heroine, Jenny Parker, has plenty of conflict in her life. Too much, some might complain. Maybe I should be kinder to her. In Critical Analysis, the fourth in the series, she is having a tougher time than ever. I could be kinder to her if that’s what you want, though. There’s still time to let me know if you feel that she deserves a break at last.

photo credit: Tom Simpson via photopin cc

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