What is the purpose of conflict?

Karalee’s Post #23

A writer’s imagination is never really turned off, even in everyday activities. I read a twitter feed last Sunday that got me thinking of the meaning of a particular word. It fits right in with my manuscript writing too.

It’s conflict.

Now we all know that fiction writers, no matter what genre, all need conflict to keep a reader’s interest. Human curiosity drives the need for readers to keep reading, but only if the author poses questions that the reader wants answers to. This is the infamous: Who, What, Where, When , Why and How?

They all create conflict.

My mind begins tossing around the word, doing its connect-the-dots game, and the word conflict has mostly negative connotations for me. So I ask myself, why do humans have the need for conflict? In reality isn’t it horrific in terms of wars, prejudice and violation of human rights?

I remember leaving high school in a state of naiveté (although at the time I thought it was a high state of maturity). In 1977 I truly believed that within my lifetime there would be world peace.

That’s right. World peace.

The opposite of conflict.

As a human race we want peace, right?

So why do we all strive to have conflict? An oxymoron?

Then the connecting dots come together in one big bang in my brain, and it occurs to me that, if taken on a very small individual scale, conflict plays the role of making us strive to do something about it, to resolve it in order to have more peace within us and for the people around us.

So does conflict drive us towards creating a more peaceful state?

For example:

  • A mother or father’s nurturing of a newborn crying for attention.
  • Or a CEO of a company bringing a team together to solve problems in order for the company to thrive.
  • Or a sports team playing together to either stay ahead of or to catch up to the other team.
  • Or a heroine striving to catch the killer
  • And on and on and on.

Therefore it make sense to me that we thrive on conflict. We need it as a mechanism to spur us to do something to fix “it” and make ourselves or others feel better, or to give back to society, or to make peace.

Even in the books we write.

What do you think?

Now if only wars remained between the pages of a book we really could have world peace.

And the twitter post I read referred to the Ted Talk about how one man by accident opened a new avenue towards peace in an area of our world full of strife and conflict.


5 thoughts on “What is the purpose of conflict?

  1. Great food for thought, Karalee. Not an easy topic you have chosen, one that has many contradictions. Glad you have discovered the Ted Talks with their fantastic speakers and inspirations. I love the one you quoted. Such a great story of hope.

  2. Conflict is THE reason to read fiction. Without conflict there is no story, there’s just a town crier droning on that it’s eight o’clock and all is well (ZZzzzzzzzzzz). The human race should want peace, but individual humans and groups of humans want peace on their particular terms, and those terms differ among groups and individual humans, so we have conflicts, wars, bitterly contested elections, family feuds, domestic arguments, shootouts over a parking space, and paramutual betting at the racetrack (or the stock market). Conflict is an integral part of human life, for better or for worse. That’s why, if you can frame a conflict that draws wide interest, and write about it in an appealing (and/or compelling) way, you have a book that people will want to read.

  3. No matter how “evolved” we’ve become, or how big our cortexes have grown with their nuanced interpretations of life, I think conflict will always be that part of us that’s buried in the primitive brain stem. It’s all about survival — our first job in life, and when everything else gets stripped away, our only job. Maybe storytelling is just one of our ways — begun as oral tradition — to teach ourselves survival skills. Maybe craving stories is, in itself, a survival strategy?

  4. Conflict is what stimulates our emotions. Emotions make events memorable and meaningful for us. Reason is soothing, practical, but rarely memorable. Think back in tyour life on what you remember most intensely. It was a highly emotional moment/time, no doubt. All the times you acted rationally and the world seemed rational tend to blur together.
    Drama queens tap into our emotions in order to make themselves memorable, however we might dislike them!

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