A big problem with having an anxiety disorder means I have trouble leaving dissenting comments on another person’s blog*.
I love Jenny’s novels. Love them, read them over and over again. A comrade reminded me of her blog, and I resubscribed. I was really looking forward to reading her blog series on writing; she is a witty writer and I wish I had a tenth of her skill. A new post showed up on my reader, so I went and read it. And a line stood out to me.
Conflict is a struggle between two people who both want goals and who are blocking each other.
I mean, I read that and thought, have things changed so much in literature that they only classify Man vs Man as conflict? A quick google said nope, there’s the three I learned in school, plus four more that many people agree count. (Man vs Man, Man vs Self, Man vs Nature were the ones I learned).
So went to the previous post, Conflict, A Definition. Again, Man vs Man. There were no questions about that in the comments, so I went back to the first page I’d read. I was hoping someone had also had trouble with this.
And there someone had posed the question, asking about Man vs Nature, using a story about climbing a mountain. Jenny clarified herself in the comments:
An antagonist fights back, and in that fight escalates the plot.
So the mountain, which is just sitting there minding its own business, makes a lousy antagonist.
To which I say:
You do not need an antagonist to make your story work. A decent description of ‘conflict’ can be found at wikipedia:
Conflict in literature refers to the different drives of the characters or forces involved.
Limiting the meaning of ‘conflict’ in writing to one thing, Man vs Man, limits potential stories.
I can think of dozens of books that have lots of conflict and action without relying on Man vs Man as the primary focus.I’m sure everyone can. Which is why I can’t wrap my brain around why she states it as a universal truth.
Maybe her point is that Man vs Man sells better? And this might be true for her, especially since she’s moved from straight romance to romantic thrillers. But she doesn’t phrase her advice as being just for romantic thrillers, and that’s where I get frustrated. The first post of the blog states that she’s “presenting the basic theories of fiction in general and of romance writing in particular”. So maybe I’m just reading way too much into this and being pedantic. And yet I can’t help but wonder, if she’s already redefined ‘conflict’, what else is she going to modify?
I’m not going to give up reading the series, but I’m going to be more wary. A writer should always be looking to expand their skill set, and there may be useful things ahead. I hope.
*I’m using donotlink because I am a coward. Jenny is a fabulous and great writer, and I am a hack. Meh.