Do I avoid conflict in my real life? Yes and no. I avoid what I like to call 'toxic' people. You know the kind that would say negative things about their best friend at their best friend's funeral? Whenever I'm around someone who says negative things about their friends (on a regular basis), alarm bells go off inside me. I immediately think...this is a person I can't trust. Usually I cut off the friendship before it starts. That might sound cold, but I haven't regretted a decision yet. And my life as an adult is much better for it.
You see, as a teen, I had a lot of 'bad' friends. Growing up with ADHD and having a hell of a time making friends as a kid, I was just excited to HAVE friends once I got to high school. So what if they talked behind my back or always went after guys I liked or stole my clothes and CDs or tried to push me in front of a moving train while they were tweaking (yes, true story) With the exception of the friend who tried to push me, I kept most of these people in my life at the time. I thought..well, people aren't perfect. I just need to let it go. Having something to do on the weekends is better than sitting home by myself. Most of the time I avoided conflict like the plague. I put up with just about anything not to have to end up in a fight with someone...because with the people I hung around that usually meant getting beat up or jumped.
I didn't start growing a real backbone until my 20s, after years of just 'taking it'. Now I pride myself on NOT taking crap. That being said, I still don't seek out confrontation (I don't like it, despite my mouth). But if someone treats me in a negative manner or someone I care about, I do say what's on my mind and I'm not afraid to defend myself or someone I care about. In short--if I think you're acting like a jerk, I tell you.
How does this translate into my stories? Well, believe it or not, years of hanging out with 'villain' types has made me develop an odd fascination with them. Even though some of my friends were real tools, they had some pretty messed up stuff going on in their lives. I'm not saying having a messed up life is an excuse to be a jerk. But as the years went by and I had time to think back on them, I realized they were more than just the one-dimensional baddie I had in my head. They were real people with real problems who dealt with those problems the only way they knew how. Some of these people were screaming for help at the time. But I was too mad at them to notice.
I love stories where the villains are just as real and developed as the protagonists. Maybe they even have a 'want' a lot of people can relate to. Really-I think this is the best kind of conflict...when you can see both sides of the story even if you don't agree with how the villain is choosing to handle it. Even if the villain is doing something HORRIBLE. I think sometimes our villains turn into one-dimensional baddies because that's how we see people who have hurt us in our lives. But even people who do horrible things have wants and in their own minds they probably feel vindicated. Sad, but true.
Thankfully the only place I 'choose' to deal with jerks is in my books. I cringe at having to understand them...but it's worth it. My stories become that much more vivid and colorful that way.