Recently I posted a quote by Tennessee Williams concerning the nature of conflict, a ubiquitous and vital element of life. As he said, “Without conflict man is a sword cutting daisies.” By extension, without conflict writers are castrated reporters.
Story is King
I have come to realize how restrictive a template for story can be. The simplest and best approach, if we must have one, is that stories are problem solving events. Or, as another suspense author stated, ask a question and discover the answer. Build suspense by delaying the answer authentically. This approach is more general, allowing the imagination and experience of the writer to play. This is the gateway for a writer’s voice. In this regard, story is king; it trumps all else.
Aristotle wrote of a beginning, a middle and end. Familiar as the air we breathe, this description may be all we need. The 14 or 26 beat stories with convoluted A and B story lines, subplots, reversals, double-backs, foreshadowing, flashbacks, are simply more of the slings and arrows our stories are err to in a complicated life. It is true that our lives are incredibly layered with connective minutia because of technology. This layering is great ornamentation, a gateway for pulling a reader into our web.
The implication of story, problem solving and even Aristotle’s beginning-middle-end, is conflict. This is the life blood of story. Without a recognizable and embraceable conflict all else is irrelevant. Readers look for conflict they recognize, and with the question then posed – How is it resolved? – we have the universal hook that makes our stories compelling.
All Wrapped Up and No Place to Go
The flash fiction posted yesterday seemed to have some appeal. The story had been shared with a writing group, of which I am a member, and the response there was very positive. Looking back the conflict was embraceable, despite not being particularly pithy, shall we say. But, from that simple conflict a larger question emerges from the simple act of unwrapping.
There were no diagramed plot or beat points, just a story with a conflict, a beginning, a middle, and an end.