Conflict versus Controversy by Wendy Delsol
This month’s theme is conflict; I’m tensing up already. My fellow YA-Outside-the-Liners have, so far, all professed an aversion to conflict in their personal lives. I’m no different and sensing a trend. Hmmm. As writers—a profession that preaches conflict, conflict, conflict—is our mayhem quota maxed out by our occupation? By dropping our protagonists into shark-filled waters or abandoning them in dark alleyways (whether literally or figuratively) are we on conflict overload? Or do we relish, thus perpetuate, this double life: mild-mannered homebody with a dark and twisted alter ego? Curious indeed.
Regardless of the psychology behind the writing process, story REQUIRES conflict. Without a problem as a plot catalyst, there is no journey, no triumph, nothing to overcome, and no necessity for growth and change. Simply put, for the writer there is no avoiding conflict.
I imagine what comes into question, then, is the kinds of obstacles we choose to impose upon our characters. Perhaps at the heart of this question is a nuance of conflict: the one of conflict versus controversy.
There is, of course, a difference between conflict and controversy. I suggest that one is internally generated while the other externally. The YA genre has recently come under scrutiny for edgy content deemed inappropriate for teens. Or, at least, content that should have parental consent.
My YA fiction is not edgy. But that’s not to say that I don’t recognize its place on the shelf and support its creators. People, teens included, read for all kinds of reasons: entertainment, thrills, knowledge, or solace and support.
I imagine one’s subset in the YA genre has a lot to do with the issues tackled. My YA projects have been classified as “light fantasy,” and “paranormal romance.” I’m throwing evil beings—not date rape, sexual abuse, or suicidal thoughts—in the way of my character. I suppose it comes down to the adage: write what you like to read. As an escapist reader, I became an escapist writer.
So is it fair for me to applaud edgier reads while writing lighter reads? I hope so. Banned book week is September 24 – October 1. It’s timely, therefore, to think about this aspect of conflict. I, for one, definitely support removing books from library shelves … for reading, naturally J.