Nice people write lousy fiction

I suppose that better fiction comes from people who are messier, who don’t mind wading into a scene where there’s conflict.

Because that’s what messes up my plotting. There I’ll be, setting up the battle to end all battles, and I’ve got my people primed and ready to go. There’s going to be Donnybrook!

But wait. Not really a plot twist, more like a balloon full of molten lead. The antagonist has flown the coop. There is no battle. No bodies. No blood. No bullets flying.

That’s awfully boring, isn’t it? No one wants to read that. Give us the figurative blood and gore. We want it. We need it. It’s necessary for fiction to have that.

That’s the point of the title. The nice people out there, they shy away from dragging everyone else through their messes. Fiction comes from the depiction of people in different bad situations. Maybe people who’ve been damaged by conflict in their childhoods might write weak fiction because they shy away from the nasty stuff. I don’t blame ’em.  Maybe you are the eternal optimist and think there’s enough conflict in the world. Maybe you’re just nice and want people to have a yellow happy face have a nice day sort of  blather. Either way, that is the insipid path to dullness.

Stories do not work without conflict.

So brace yourselves and make everyone argue. Peace is a nice thing to talk about in blog posts where you have no intention of doing anything to back it up, but it’s dullsville in fiction.  If you manuscript says, “The elves and dwarves had been at peace as long as anyone could remember,” I’ll fix that for you. Say, instead, “The elves and dwarves had been in a bitter war as along as anyone could remember.”  Everytime we get and elf and dwarf together, there’s a fight!

Plus, each scene needs that conflict goal thing. You know, the character has a goal. There’s a conflict. They can’t have their goal. Then you do the whole mourning thing, they come up with a new goal, and go to carry that out. Scene and sequel. Repeat this over and over. Apply structure, apply arc, add plot twists, you have a book.

I will now go make my characters fight some more. There’s way too much agreement.

6 thoughts on “Nice people write lousy fiction

  1. OTOH, a good writer can write something messy and conflicty. I believe that people can write what they know more authentically, but that doesn’t prohibit writers from trying on other people’s skins and doing so without being that thing.

    Maybe I should amend this to read, nice people have a harder time of writing conflicty fiction.

    Conflicty is a word. It is now. 😀


  2. I sort agree. I think “nice” people can write good fiction as long as these “nice” people have a hidden maniacal side that usually only comes out in their writing, or in random mind games with crazy neighbors . . . not that I have any experience with that. 🙂 But characters definitely need need conflict. Conflict everywhere, splattered on the walls and on the spinning blades of a ceiling fan.


    • Ha, I was reminded of the part in the Lionel Shriver’s speech about how the whole “you must have experience with it to write about it” falls apart if you apply it to people writing about, say, serial murderers.

      The roots of the whole you-must-have-experience I believe stems out of a philosophy put forth by John Dewey into the school systems (and pervades the US schools to this day). Only experience is a good teacher!!

      This is, of course, a lie. It might be maybe true for the kinesthetic person, but I’d rather not have to experience most things in order to write about them in a truthful way. Else we’d end up having to go through the holocaust again to write about auschwitz, or redo the killing fields to understand Pol Pot. [Side note: Pol Pot never was called into account for his crimes. Massacred thousands, yet never given justice.]

      Liked by 1 person

    • The detective looked up. With exquisite slowness, a blackened drop of conflict elongated, then separated from the ceiling fan to fall right between his eyes. Like so much glue, conflict sucked at every footstep. “I think I’m contaminating the writer’s scene,” he said.

      “You’re d___ right you are,” said an antagonist, stepping from the shadows. “And now you need to leave.”

      “I just got here. And who are you?” the detective said.

      “I don’t gotta tell you nuthin,” the antagonist said. “Also, I hate you and I’ve been stalking you. I’m the reason your wife left you. I’m the reason you’re about to be fired from your job.”

      “Can’t we just get along?” the detective asked. “I just want to live out my life without conflict until I retire.”

      “You can’t retire if I cripple you and frame you for a crime you didn’t commit.”

      “I don’t want to be in this story,” the detective said. “I’m not listening. Lalalalalalalalala.”

      The antagonist looked at him with glittery black eyes, then hit the detective, cracking his jaw.

      “Ow! Why’d you do that?” the detective asked, grabbing his jaw.

      “I’m going to poison your well and steal your pension,” the antagonist said.

      “Why?” the detective demanded. “Why all this?”

      “Because they- the readers- demanded it. They don’t like you. You’re a boring character. They like me, I actually do something. My goal is to marry your wife, get your kids to like me and hate you, and take over the house where you live and make you homeless.”

      “Why?” the detective wailed.

      “Because you pushed me once in grade school. I never forget a slight.”

      Liked by 1 person

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