1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Theme A story with one beautiful thing after another, conflict taking a back seat.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GingerCoffee, Jun 14, 2014.

    So of course I watch every movie, read every book looking at elements of story, what works, what doesn't, how what I've learned about writing is reflected in successful or unsuccessful movies and books. And the word, conflict, has been drilled into me.

    So imagine my surprise when I'm watching, "Back to the Secret Garden" and I see mild conflict immediately resolved again and again. There are no evil kids or adults, no abusive person/evil stepmother/mean caregiver running the home the kids are living in. When kids mess up they are treated fairly and even handedly. When kids are unfriendly or jealous, it's temporary, quickly resolved in an 'everybody wins' solution.

    WTF?

    And yet I find it an interesting, captivating, pleasant to watch movie. It's refreshing there is no sadistic care giver, no evil kids, nothing mean, the kids all care about each other.

    Goes to show you, rules for writing are never fixed in stone.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I haven't seen the movie, but reading the plot summary in Wikipedia, it certainly sounds like there's plenty of conflict. Conflict doesn't require evil people.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There is conflict, but it's so different it almost needs a different noun to describe it.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    For example, the protag steals the key to the garden gate. She gets caught. Another kid takes the blame and she doesn't immediately speak up. But right away the adult notices the she's dressed (it's the middle of the night), sends the other kids off and confronts the girl. She admits she stole it, is sorry for not speaking up when the boy confessed. The adult asks a few questions, finds out the little animals come out when the girl is in the garden and ends up giving her the key, telling her it is hers. No punishment, no thing the girl must overcome, just resolution.

    So two kids are jealous and miffed at the girl. They steal the key and throw it in a pond. It all comes out in a confrontation and ends up in a kumbaya moment. Everyone loves everyone no worries.

    The key magically appears in the garden door, the kids all go inside and play, the animals come out and the flowers bloom again.

    The tropes one is so used to seeing never appear.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not saying it's not nice, I'm just saying that it doesn't strike me as breaking the "a story needs conflict" rule.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not disagreeing with you. Perhaps I'm not verbalizing the issue concisely. But the conflicts mostly lead to people saying, that's OK.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sounds like the type of conflict (yes, it's still conflict) you find in Ian McEwan's Atonement, which by the way is a great book and a good movie. I'm going to go ahead and invent a term here and call this type of conflict "literary conflict." :p
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee - It's not that you're not explaining it properly; I think it's that you may have had too narrow a personal definition of conflict.
     
  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was watching some TV show that had something similar going on... I think it was Haven. The show was full of conflicts, but at times they were solved really quickly, people got caught fast or confessed or told their secrets without too much dilly-dallying. I often expected the writers to draw them out, but instead the opposite happened. It was quite refreshing. Maybe this is a different thing, come to think of it, but of course conflicts can be really quite subtle and still hold the viewer's/reader's interest if skillfully done.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean you're not content with the level of the drama in the story?

    Personally, I need to see someone die, either physically or spiritually, to be fully satisfied.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Discontent is not the issue. I thought it was a lovely movie. Rather, I was surprised at the different quality of the conflict.

    The reason I'm trying to say the conflict wasn't of the usual quality is because the issues dissolved rather than were resolved.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. Conflict simply means someone at odds with someone or something, including themselves. It doesn't have to be drawn out, physical, heart-wrenching, or even dramatic. On the other hand, there are stories with no conflict at all that are still interesting and entertaining. I'm thinking of the "slice of life" type stories, where it's really just musings by the characters/narrator on the various people in the story. I keep thinking of Garrison Keillor and Lake Woebegone, although that might not be the best example.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You are not the first person I've seen mention Keillor. I suspect my neglect of his works to date has been my loss.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    He's a wonderful humorist with a light touch of philosopher - I've seen him described as a modern day Mark Twain, and it's not far from the mark.
     
  15. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee you should read more feminist authors :)

    It feels like you don't like the word "conflict" because its common usage includes the "two guys in, one guy out" resolution that our society see as the only appropriate... Fuck society, I say... Reminds me of a conversation about Miyazaki's Nausicaa I recently had. I tried to explain to a friend why the movie (and manga later) was so important to my childhood - the ethics of the titular character is the absolute opposite of anything I ever encountered in western media, the way she acts, the way she nonviolently resolves problems (and conflicts)... My friend said that it sounds "juvenile and naive, and boring" and that Nausicaa was probably just a "Mary Sue character in a stereotypical enviromentalist fantasy". I still got him to see it. He made a Facebook post about how he loved it. :)

    But note that there is a huge difference between "a conflict situation" and a "conflict as a narrative term". Its yet another term which meaning people take literally, and wrong, and this makes the literature (and other narrative media forms as well!) boring, repetitive and predictable. The "conflict" as established in narratological studies draws from studies in psychology - the conflict doesn't need an explosive, one-sided resolution, the "untying of the knot"... Conflicts produce tension - resolving conflict by addressing it directly doesn't bring a true resolution (the root of the problem, if you like, remains), but leads to more tension, which brings in another "conflict" etc etc. The hero thus spends most of the narrative jumping from one conflict to another - literally - which means s/he acts as a neurotic, and a sociopath; and her/his interpersonal relations, if you step back and be honest about it, are too often unhealthy.

    "Conflict" as a "unit of tension", and this is just my humble opinion, shouldn't be misused by making them the only building blocks of a narrative - and they certainly shouldn't be mistreated by turning every single bulge in the hero's path to a reason for a freakin' war!
     
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