story conflict

conflict in story

As writers, it is important to investigate and become conscious of those things that we feel strongly about, those issues that inflame our passion. Be curious about your ideas of justice, authenticity, self-authority, the need for community, people who gossip, and the lost rights of left-handed people. It is through investigation of the things we feel strongly about that we come to discover a deeper truth.

What we feel strongly about is necessarily subjective.

It isn’t enough to say I am a Democrat, or I am a Republican. Writers exist above superfluous labels, ideas of what is right and wrong, good and bad, etc. As writers, we are interested in as yet undiscovered truths. We are on a mission for transformation, for greater understanding.

Investigating that which we feel strongly about is where the seed of innumerable stories lies. Writers often revisit what they feel strongly about throughout their lives, examining these issues from different angles. It is important for us to become conscious of what we feel strongly about, and begin to explore its opposing or contrary argument, because there always is one. We only feel strongly about something that is arguable. We don’t feel strongly about this desk I’m writing on being a desk, or that cat over there being a cat. We feel strongly about the necessity of getting cats spayed or neutered. And because we live in a world of limited resources, others might say, yes, that is fine, but our time and money is better spent in education, and now we have conflict, and the birth of a story. In the film, And Justice For All, Al Pacino is asked to defend a man whom he loathes, a judge, who is accused of rape. Pacino is an upright, perhaps even idealistic lawyer who deeply believes that everyone deserves a fair trial. He also realizes that if he refuses to defend the judge, he could lose his lawyer’s license. When he learns that the judge in fact did commit the crime, he is faced with a dilemma, and the question of justice suddenly takes on great and urgent meaning. We are no longer standing on the sidelines. We are engaged in the question of how justice will be meted out fairly, without consequence to Al Pacino. It is through this story that we discover that there is a price for justice. Al Pacino is forced to confront his self-righteous ideas of what justice is, and in doing so, forced to make a decision, a sacrifice that inexorably alters his future.

In a word or a phrase, what do you feel strongly about?

Do you see where it lives in your work?