A story can never be found to be gripping if it does not have any conflict. Commonly, when we mention conflict, those not initiated into the creative writing craft will immediately jump to political conflict, that which deals with politicians and their vices, but it will be found that this kind of politics is nothing but a mere element in the broader story conflict spectrum.
To isolate the concept, conflict is a child of the tension between two opposing elements. The tension can be visible to an onlooker, as a physical fight, or it can be invincible and only exist internally - in the mind and emotions of the subject. In this case for this internal conflict, only an in-depth analysis of the mind and emotions of the subject will reveal it, and of course this lies in the realms of psychoanalysis, or crazy writers.
This also pulls us to the fact that the story teller must be widely read on any subject, or if not well read, must be a good observer, as these tidbits of knowledge will be found to add depth to their stories – there is nothing as boring as a story that only scraps the surface… no matter how small the organ, a highly skilful usage of it will bring total satisfaction…
A story without conflict will immediately begin to sound like a simple explanation, and will immediately lose the attention of the reader, or if it is in theatre or film, the audience. Where three people are trying to tell their stories at the same time, as it usually happens in bars when we have had a beer or two, we will always focus on the story which tells us why John kept failing to get to point B from point A, and not the one which tells us how John slid from point A to point B without any mis-adventure. The story teller who keeps failing to grasp this simple fact will always take a long time to attract readers or publishers to their work.
Of course there are some who say they do not writer for readers, but only write for themselves – but most will be found to be lying on this, and will be secretly seeking for audiences and bugging their mirrors to have taste of their work..
To give an example of the power of conflict, and to use an example outside creative writing, even when one watches a bottle juggler performing their act, if one looks at this act closely, we will discover that even if one is drawn to the sheer beauty of observing the act of the flying bottles and the skilful catching, one is also drawn by conflict to the performance, but the conflict is within the perceiver – one side of you tells you the bottles are going to fall and break, and the other is disagreeing and saying no they are not going to fall – and so we have the enthralled audience!
We are also aware that aesthetics hold a vital position in story telling – brilliantly assembled sentences, descriptions of scenery and people, descriptions of the condition of nature, humankind, and also the creations of humans – the societies, the machines and so forth – but the thread holding this quilt together is the conflict that is the subject of the composer.
It seems that people are so much drawn to conflict that, even in peacetime, they create it as a pastime for their leisure time so that they can always get their adrenaline fix.
We have created all sorts of sports whose epicentre is conflict between individuals or teams. Imagine if boxers were two countries at war with each other, or even in the mind sports, chess and the like. But we are happy that we seem now to want to contain our aggression within soccer stadiums or boxing rings or any other sports venue, and also contain it between teams with referees watching over them. Of course we have these incidents in sports stadia where the audience becomes so much infected by the conflict between their teams that they take the conflict to themselves within the terraces and slug it out between each other.
The sports are also a good example where conflict is nicely wrapped up in excellent aesthetics, the beautiful uniforms of the sports people, the green lawns, the adverts, the beautiful cars in car racing, the flags, the national anthems if its national teams playing, and even the beautiful manoeuvres or actions of the sports people themselves. Of course now and then we have this crazy person leaping over the barricades in football stadia separating the people from the players and running across the turf amidst the players in protest or celebration and now bringing a new dimension to sports conflict. An action like this can be a beautiful distraction to sports lovers, but the wary story tellers will always try to lop off a trend like that if it starts protruding from their story construction – imagine a shooting star doing a wobble streak across the sky…But sometimes this is an out of the world fascination that we would like to explore to the fullest before we discard it.
Of course there is the belief that there is no formulae to creative writing. This also holds true too, as creative writing is an eternal process of experimentation, just take the story where it wants to go as long as you can burrow through that tunnel to the sun on the other side. But whatever, do not forget what got Hyena into trouble in the animal Kingdom, or how Janet lost her boyfriend to her best friend….