Friday, January 5, 2018

Sources of conflict

"For generation upon generation we humans have continued to try to heal our pain by inflicting more pain on others. And so it continues ..."
--Anne Speiser, in The Mindfulness Bell, Winter/Spring 2007

I zeroed in on this quote because it captures the way I approach characters, particularly "villains." I put "villains" in quotes because I think most people are not villains in their own minds, even if they're viewed that way by others. And all of us have the capability to do villainous things, at least sometimes. Most of us think we are more good than bad, that we are trying our best in a difficult world.

I try not to have my characters' bad acts reduced to a simple this-trauma-caused-that-transgression formula; it's too simplistic. I leave it to the reader to decide whether a rationale is an excuse, whether an act is forgivable. I don't usually have good characters vs. evil characters, but rather the positive and negative within each person churning and roiling, testing each character. To me, these are the most interesting conflicts, the most interesting sources of growth. 

To go back to the quote, of course we shouldn't pass along our pain. But we often do. So my stories ask, what then? What next, and can we ever break this cycle?


  1. This insight is significant, Jennifer. I don't necessarily have the good guy/bad guy in my YA adventure short stories either. It's more along the lines of both characters coming to an understanding of each other and working together. Both characters grow and change, although there is usually one hero or main protagonist as it is short story.

    If we equipped the reader with reasons for our character’s actions, they should be able to decide for themselves if an action is forgivable or at least understandable. Thanks for sharing this with your readers. All the best to you in the New Year.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this! All the best in 2018.