My thoughts about conflict between characters

I’ve been giving a lot of thought since my Literary Adventure about character, particularly about the conflict between characters.  It’s rather timely, as this is the phase I’m currently at within the Snowflake method of developing a novel (yes, it still seems to be working for me).

I’m taking each of my main characters in turn and developing a kind of super-CV.  A rather full-on biography.  I love this phase!  It shouldn’t come as any surprise, given my background in studying people (what else is counselling training, really?), but what has taken me by surprise is how much I’ve gone back into my own ideas/views about personality theory and personality development.

Conflict is one of the words that gets chucked around a lot in creative writing classes and courses.  I remember it in the very first programme I did at Morley College, but I don’t think that I really bought it then!  Conflict is such a loaded word; but perhaps another way of thinking about it is in the tensions that arise between people, because of who they are and what they do – which has an impact on the other.  In Spain, we looked at conflict styles, a fascinating exercise (and a hysterical role play) in order to play with conflict. I took an action away to give some background material on conflict styles, but I’ve come to the realisation that we need to understand the nature of our characters, before we can apply a conflict style.  In the role play in Spain, my colleague was asked to play the role of a ‘hoodie in a gang’, and given a conflict style that meant they were non-resistant (symbiotic, whatever you want).  They couldn’t play it, because it was incongruous to the role.  It didn’t occur to me at the time, but they were dead right to ignore the conflict style (instead going for domination, a more bullish approach).  Everything is lead by the nature of the person, of the characters we create, and therefore this drives as much as how someone eats an orange as reacts to another.

I also was thinking about personality types (and an exercise that we did in therapy training) and also defence mechanisms (how we handle difficult news, which might include conflict).  I’ve had a good old dust in the recesses of my mind and I realise that I have resources within me to create ‘real’ feeling characters… the danger with me, of course, is that I don’t end up putting them in therapeutic relationships, and therefore killing any chance of conflict.  I have had feedback in the past that said my dialogue was too ‘therapy speak’.  One to watch.

However, I’ve created a little bit of work for myself in formulating my ideas on personality, defence mechanisms and then conflict – if I can follow it all through and summarise it, I think it will help my peers on my Literary Adventure.  I’m looking forward to doing that.  And of course it’s not procrastinating…. is it?

 

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