Novels without Conflict?

September 12, 2012 — 10 Comments

It wasn’t until recently when someone pointed it out to me that I realised fully how different my novels were.  I always thought they were quite full of suspense, but a shocked reader informed me that she found the absence of the “normal elements of fiction” unpalatable – referring to the near-absence of a villain and conflict in my first novel, Ephemerine Tree.

I started thinking about it and comparing my novels to others in the top ebook lists.  It dawned on me that main characters in novels nowadays do not only have to go through growth and transformation, but also through intense conflict and severe trauma, and especially violent trauma.  They have to wake up in a pool of blood without any memory of what had happened to them, later to discover they are the victim of an ancient supernatural enemy, in order for a book to be popular.

Then I did a bit of research on the internet on conflict.  Here are some of the headings I found:

“No Conflict, No Fiction.”

“Writing Conflict – Understanding the most important part of fiction.”

“Without conflict there is no purpose to fiction.”

Ah, now I recalled how we were indoctrinated in school from a young age to believe there is a set of rules regarding literature that needs to be followed, and that it always involves conflict.

Who made the rule?  And who benefits from this rule being diligently followed?

It never ceases to amaze me how people desire to have peace on the planet, yet they WATCH and READ CONFLICT all the time!  How can we expect peace on the planet or in our own lives if we are constantly creating thoughts of conflict?

You may not immediately see the results of your thoughts – you may not read about a murder tonight and end up with a knife in your heart tomorrow.  Thoughts do not manifest that way.  They gradually accumulate and attract similar frequencies, and finally they may manifest in the distant future, perhaps only in a next life.   They may manifest in a similar but related form.  You may end up just cutting your finger instead.

The earth we live on now is the result of our past thoughts and the thoughts of our ancestors.  I will not say too much about thought manifestation here, but will include one quote from a New Age book just for those interested in this topic:

“Every time you think a thought, you are leaving a morphogenetic imprint within the frequency bands in which your consciousness was stationed.  You will run into that thought pattern, in combination with others from the collective consciousness, as a manifestation in physical reality.  Morphogenetic fields are the form-holding patterns through which matter forms and events manifest.  When a morphogenetic field is created, it begins to draw frequency patterns into itself, expanding, accreting, and “fleshing itself out into matter.”  Have you ever considered where thoughts go once your attention has left them?  Part of what appears to you as manifest reality now, from your D-4 station of attention, represents your thought-forms, and those of the collective masses, that were left behind as morphogenetic fields when your conscious focus of attention was stationed in the dimension below your present focus.”

–          Voyagers II, The Secrets of Amenti by Ashayana Deane

Enough said about thought creation.  Yes, my novels contain very little conflict, but there is some tension and definitely a change and growth in the main character(s).  My novels are supposed to be a part of positive co-creation.  I am not planning to change that.  There are already thousands of novels out there that cater for every type of adrenalin rush you may feel you need, my novels are an endeavour to write on a different frequency.  I am not saying better, just different.

“But how can one experience or know joy without experiencing sorrow?” you may ask. Well, you don’t need to be tortured in a pool of red stuff by unsightly dark beings in order to appreciate joy.  The energies on our planet are not balanced at the moment.  Think about it.  How many things can you do to your little finger to give it pain?  I can write a lengthy list:

Bang it in a door.

Bite it.

Hit it.

Put it under the car tyre.

Feed it to a vicious dog.

Slice it into pieces.

Burn it.

Prick it with a needle.

Tap the blood out of it.

Use a hammer to drive a nail through it.

Pour acid onto it…

I’m sure you can come up with more imaginative suggestions, especially if you are an author. How many pleasurable and loving things can you do to your little finger?

Lick it.

Kiss it.

Rub it.

Tickle it with a feather?

The negative suggestion list is far longer, isn’t it?  It’s also easier to think of gruesome ideas to add to that list.  Why?  Suffice to say there is an imbalance of energies on our planet, and more conflict-free, positive, inspiring (but not boring!) novels are welcome.

The last point is important too.  They should not be boring.  No moralistic sermons.  A challenge, isn’t it?  Can you create fun, interesting but light-hearted, positive fiction?  Do you think my novels are successful examples of this rare genre?

Mirti Venyon Reiyas

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10 responses to Novels without Conflict?

  1. 

    Hey, Mirti! Yes, conflict is a necessary evil! I teach Conflict! Conflict! Conflict in an online workshop and believe me you don’t have to wake up in a pool of blood or have a bomb go off in a school to add conflict.

    But you DO have to have conflict and goals that your characters are trying to reach whereby whatever the conflict is, it impedes that progress.

    Let’s say your boss decides he needs you to prepare a feast for your company and this will directly reflect on your potential for advancement in the company. No dead bodies or anything. It can be as simple as realizing you don’t have one of the main ingredients for the meal. No problem, you’re on your way to the grocery store when you get a flat. Okay…so the time is slipping by and… see, no blood or gore, but a series of conflicts that impede the heroine’s ultimate goal. Throw in a hunk who gives her a lift (if it’s a romance) or…whatever. Maybe she’s in a real rush, and forgets her purse, no money, no cell phone, no way to call for service. Conflict.

    One of my favorite Thanksgivings I like to share was about the time the hornets came to dinner. No one died in the story. Well, the hornets, but hopefully everyone will understand the reason for that. We had an ice storm, smoke, hornets and a foreign film with subtitles. It was full of conflict, one right after another. It’s a true story and memorable. Why? Because of the conflict. If I wrote about one of our perfect Thanksgivings that are pretty unmemorable in the years of Thanksgivings, who wants to hear about that? 🙂 Conflict has it. And we still laugh about that day. We laughed the whole way through the foreign film.

    • 

      Thank you for the contribution, Terry! Yes, my novels have some of those too – but I prefer to call them “life lessons,” or “challenges,” situations arranged by the characters themselves on their 3-D or higher levels in order to allow them to experience different realities. I guess it’s a question of word choice. However, the characters in my novels are not always impeded at every step…sometimes things do go smoothly. “Life lessons” are not always necessary. In fact, I want to attempt to write a novel where everything goes great all the time, just for a change. I haven’t done that yet, though. I’m looking forward to the challenge – my life challenge.

      If one believes that everything should always be a struggle in life then that is what one will manifest. If one believes that life often flows in harmony then that is what one will manifest. I know, most people like to read about conflicts, but there are readers too who wish to read something different for a change.

      I compare it to the “Good News” websites. Why do mainstream news channels report mostly death, fights, robberies, scandals and all the negative stuff? I hardly EVER read the news. I visit “Good News” channels, and it is so refreshing to see only positive news! Some people will say that “you have to know what is going on in the world, you have to watch the news.” Do you? Really? I haven’t watched or read the mainstream news for almost 20 years, and cannot say that I have lost out on anything! Sometimes we do not realise how we have blindly accepted a certain mindset until we try something different, and find out it works and it’s great!

  2. 

    Hah. Yes, it does seem as though conflict and violence are very popular in literature. The same goes for Hollywood movies. Both popular novels and Hollywood movies seem to have set guidelines in order for audiences to rant and rave about them. I’m not sure why this is…as you said, many people claim to wish for a peaceful world, but why then do these same people love to see fictional characters living in a non-peaceful world? There are probably several speculative reasons for this, I’m sure. For one, if there is no conflict, then how does the protagonist find him/herself and rise above in a chance to better the world?

    I cannot wait to read your novels, Mirti. I think it will be quite refreshing reading a positive book that is different from the norm! Sometimes I feel as though I am reading the same story over and over again, just with different characters and some other small differences. So, bravo to you for breaking away from the norm! 🙂

    • 

      Thank you Sam! I guess the best part of our cosmos is that there is so much room for everything! Variety is the spice of life. Simultaneous oneness and difference! Every book has its place.

  3. 

    Very thought-provoking article and I, too, was going to point out what was taught me in all writing classes/courses I’ve ever taken – there has to be struggle of some nature or there is no story. No growth.

    But that certainly doesn’t mean there has to be violence and dripping blood. In my novel, Leopard’s Kin, the main character is basically facing a “woman vs. herself” conflict and while I believe the story carries well through most of the novel as she develops, as I neared the end of the book, I realized there wasn’t enough of a climax with that struggle alone. Hence, the introduction of the Jaguar Knights who were discreetly “eliminating” members of the human population.

    I’m facing the same challenge with the series as a whole. I’m still deciding how the final scenes will play out and how much conflict will be physical and how much emotional or cerebral!

  4. 

    Hi Becky! Ah, now I understand why the ending was not my favourite part of the book – I didn’t like the idea of beings eliminating others. At most they could be banned to another part of the cosmos, to eventually go back to Source as Space Dust and be reborn. Jaguars devouring souls was not my cup of tea. But by looking at other novels out there – I bet that must have been considered the best part by many readers!

    I did love the rest of the book and your main character though. Lori was brave, sensitive and intelligent. I developed a love for horses just by reading your book! The metaphysical conversations were well done too – appropriate and blended into the story.

    Struggles, conflict, climaxes…they’re popular I guess…but I still firmly believe there is an audience out there somewhere who will appreciate harmony, co-operation and equanimity of plot. With a little fun and joy sprinkled in…

  5. 

    Conflict is the mother’s milk of fiction. Or at least that’s what I was taught. Now I’m not into bloody conflict or killing. My characters go through a lot of internal struggles and relationship conflict. They must learn something along the journey.

  6. 

    Oh my, I agree with you, and I agree with Terry. Something has to be going on for there to be a story. In my River City romances, I must choose my characters very carefully as there are so many people living in the fictional place I created. So two people meet and fall in love. They date. Life keeps moving forward, and their love progresses until they get married. They doesn’t mean they get their own story. What makes the difference?

    Historically, romances tended to read as boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy does something stupid, and spends the next 100 pages trying to prove his undying love. Just when you think they’ll finally get back together, he’s got to do one more stupid thing, *but* none of it has ever been his fault! Then she realizes that it’s all been a big mistake and they live happily ever after! NOT!

    No wonder the divorce rate is so high! Sorry, folks. Once a jerk always a jerk. Men don’t change their stripes, nor do women. I won’t write it!

    I pick up the slice of life that involves courtship. With it comes everything else. In A New Beginning (A River City Novel) Dallas Nixon is a teen who is kicked out of her home in her 18th birthday. She could have just been another statistic but her story is interesting. Why? A few things. She’s bright and she’s a talented artist, she also ran to Rick (the now adult son of an old neighbor), and she only asked for shelter. She got much more. He respected her, treated her as an adult, and nurtured her talent. He gave her a chance to mentally grow ,and his connections gave her a career. He also fell in love with the young woman she became.

    Do you see conflict there? I don’t. But her story is interesting because Dallas isn’t exactly the “normal” teen. She’s actually one of my favorite characters because she’s constantly striving, and yet holds a very positive outlook on life. She’s also not the normal heroine of a romance novel.

    When my muse is in overdrive, I’m looking for characters who stand out, who make a difference, who do the impossible because they didn’t didn’t know that they couldn’t do it. Their lives make the story interesting. The “conflict” is either within them or job related.

    Yes, there’s growth or realization. Can two people figure out how to combine their lives and make a successful marriage? It’s not just them. It’s their families, jobs, social pressures, etc. Finding Mr. Right isn’t easy, but if someone does find him, it takes more than a few dates to figure out how to blend those lives into something cohesive

    That’s what I bring to my stories. I have a new River City Novel that will be released Oct. 1. She runs a company that build skyscrapers. He’s an ob-gyn. They don’t even keep the same hours. She’s already had her heart ripped out by a man and isn’t very trusting. It’s their journey. It’s her realization that she has Mr. Right. That she can have a life with him and she doesn’t have to give up anything. Conflict? Not really, but admitting that she’s in love, and admitting that they are compatible and can have a life together takes time.

    A quick note to your blog readers. Everything I write is meant for mature audiences. It will bore the heck out of most young teens. OTOH, before I was 19, I had quite a few college credits behind me, I was married with a baby, two cars in the driveway, and a brand new house. I wasn’t the normal teen.

    When we stop making it seem as if two people who have nothing in common can create a life together and one can give up their dreams to make a marriage, maybe the divorce rate will drop! Never give up your dreams! Never comprise your basic principles. Until death do you part is a long time! And it’s not about who cleans the cat litter box or takes out the trash.

    • 

      Hi E.Ayers

      The reason why I haven’t commented on your post is because it was the one that made me think most! It had me contemplating everything from marriages, the reasons for divorce on this planet (can we really pin them down and do they differ from country to country?), conflict and internal growth in novel characters, plus the difference amongst catering for what the majority likes (we have to make some money too, right?), writing what we think they should like and being preachy or judgmental (or being perceived as such when we didn’t intend it), and writing what we simply wish to express as part of our being and share with others for the joy of co-creation. I thought about how our books are so much a reflection of who we are and our world views. I am still deliberating on all this and more…will let you know if I reach any conclusions!

      Thank you for your contribution. Perhaps the best way to understand your points would be for me to read your books! Besides, they do sound magnificent! Even though you say your novels will not appeal to Young Adults, it sounds as if you could write great YA books and as if teens could learn a lot from reading about the type of relationships, determination and growth you describe.

      I do agree that aspects of one’s personality cannot be suppressed forever – they will pop or crawl out eventually…So if one is restraining certain parts of oneself for the sake of a relationship, it is not healthy and surely conflict is on the horison of that marriage! However, as far a divorce goes – sometimes people ARE compatible when they first get married, but twenty years down the line they have changed, perhaps drastically. After all, we are not static, we constantly change. It is understandable to me that they may wish to go separate ways, especially if their changes have taken them in very different directions.

      BUT – on our planet we have a family system whereby children are only really independent after about 25 years, and where broken marriages do affect children emotionally in a very negative way, not to speak of a single parent being left alone to struggle to bring up the kids. So, unless we are in some higher dimension, where children grow up faster and become independent sooner, and where there is nothing like working to just keep a roof over your head, where people are breatharian and food is not necessary, and where there is absolute love (no nasty stepmother)…yes, divorce is not desirable if you have kids. Then marriage is kept together by tolerance, understanding and co-operation for the greater good of the family.

      Can there really be one blanket solution for a problem? I think individual cases and circumstances need to be taken into consideration.

      Just some of my thoughts for now…
      Thank you!
      Mirti

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