Saturday, March 3, 2012

Emotion in Writing, Part 4: Conflict and Connection

In Part 1 of this series I talked about the power of emotions and why they are important in writing. In Part 2 I talked about Pain and Joy. In Part 3 I went over Love and Hate.

Today we will be discussing conflict and connection. I know that these are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of emotions. But all emotions lead to one or the other - a conflict or a connection. And some emotions, like love, can even lead to both.


Conflict is the driving force of a story. Without conflict there is not story. Would you read 200 pages about someone who has a perfect life? No. Why - because it isn't possible. It isn't believable. And it is down right boring.

Lot's of things can cause conflict in our writing. For me the most powerful ones are conflicts born of emotion. Take a moment and think of your favorite book - the one you read over and over again. What is the conflict? Keep digging deeper until you find a conflict tied to emotions.

My favorite book is The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. The main conflict begins when the hero - driven by an emotional force he does not understand - kidnaps the heroine. The following conflicts ensue because the heroine starts to fall in love with the desert people and of course - with the hero.

Emotional conflicts fall into two major categories. There is a conflict because of opposing emotions. (For example, Bella and Jake from Twilight have different emotions towards Edward - which creates a conflict between them.) Or the emotion a character has is in conflict with what they have to do. (In The Blue Sword the heroine loves the hero but must go against him and risk loosing his love to save the day.)


I wrote and entire series on Emotional Connections with Characters. What I want to discuss here is emotional connection between characters.

Let's address the obvious first - love. When two characters love each other (on whatever level) they become connected. I laughed in Harry Potter when he broke up with Ginny because he did not want to put her in danger. When will heroes learn that just because the aren't with the person they love the bad guy won't still kidnap them.

Back to Harry and Ginny. He breaks up with her to keep her safe. However he still loves her. And guess what - Voldemort knows that. Gasp. So even if Harry wasn't with Ginny - Voldemort would still come after her to get to him.

Hate can also connect to characters. Take for example Harry and Voldemort. They hate each other and that is a powerful part of what binds their fates together.

Can you think of other connects between characters that are formed because of emotions, such as fear, hope, respect?

In summary, emotions are the tools we use to create conflict and connection in our writing. They give depth and detail to a story.

What do you think? What are some emotional conflicts and connections you have come across in your reading or writing?

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, yes! A story has to have a conflict. I took a creative writing class last semester and one of the girls in the class did not understand that there had to be a conflict. Being a scatterbrained person that shows up late and forgets things sometimes... that is not a conflict by itself. It was painful to read what she brought to class.

    I laughed at the part with Harry and Ginny. You-Know-Who knew anyway. :)