Sunday, September 25, 2011

feeling conflicted - Alisa M. Libby

As others have stated, I too avoid conflict at all costs. Much better to let things fester over time (sigh).

But seriously, I was noting how many authors started their post with tales of their own avoidance of conflict and I thought, "Is it us? Are we a fearful bunch?" Then I thought no, there are people out there who are not afraid of conflict - who seek it out, even. Those girls in high school who would gossip about whoever happened to not be present at a given moment, stirring up bitterness and anger in the group for no apparent reason.

In real life, I avoid these people like the plague.

But in a book, conflict is essential. The key is making it the right kind of conflict. Personally, I think a character who seeks out conflict and thrives on the adrenaline of fighting would likely get boring after a while - if there is no fear or discomfort, then what is at stake? But putting a character who is at least a bit conflict-averse in the midst of clashes she can't escape - that can make for good fiction.

There was a particular character from THE KING'S ROSE that I loved for this very reason: The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Whenever this woman walked into a room, I knew she would have something interesting, and likely uncomfortable, to say to Catherine Howard, bride to King Henry VIII. The Duchess did not mince words. Whether it be instructing Catherine on her role as queen, or advising her on how to seduce the king, or berating her for past dalliances with young men, the Duchess was sharp, unflinching, often cruel - but her intent wasn't vindictive. She was there to mold Catherine into what she needed to be: a submissive queen, the mother of an heir to the throne. If Catherine had done something wrong, she knew that it wouldn't get past the Duchess. For this reason, her presence added an extra crackle of tension.

I loved to write about the Duchess, and all of my other conflict-loving characters. But that doesn't mean I want to sit with them at lunch.

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