There’s a brook not far from my house with a little bridge over it. On my daily walk, if my path takes me to it, I often stand for a few moments and listen to the brook burble. Most of the time, it just flows away from me in one gentle, continuous sweep. Very placid and mellow. But if there’s been a heavy rain, it rises dramatically.
Watching second stream made me think of the value of conflict in writing. We can create a story that flows along based on character, setting, and plot. But if we don’t have conflict, nothing really happens.
Not long ago, I stood on the bridge, watching the waters flow. It had rained for a few days—chilly, winter rain that didn’t quite freeze into snow. The brook was higher than usual, but still calm. Then, I looked to the right and saw a second stream. It was pouring over a pile of rocks and because of this obstacle, it was rushing more swiftly and energetically than the main stream, enlivening it.
Conflict is like that second stream—encountering an obstacle, creating friction, and fueling forward motion:
Conflict creates energy: It stirs a story up and enlivens it. When a conflict occurs, it can reignite a plot and make it come alive.
Conflict creates confusion: It can take readers by surprise, raise questions, and introduce unexpected narrative twists and turns.
Conflict creates opportunities: It can provide fresh options for character development, new characters, and backstory reveals.
Conflict creates momentum: It steps on the gas and drives a story forward. Without it a story can languish, stagnate, and puddle.
So let’s remember that second stream, flowing into the main one, energizing and enlivening it when we think of conflict. Write on!
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