The Benefits of Conflict (or “Even Bambi had problems”)

My entire life, I have labored under the illusion that conflict is a bad thing. I thought that if I could only eliminate conflict from my life, life would be easier. Even at my age (an age I never thought I would make), I still harbor thoughts that life is going to be simple and conflict-free one day.

It’s my guilty pleasure…

Conflict occurs in every species

Conflict occurs in every species

I’m slowly, very slowly, learning that life is not supposed to be easy. Even if I had no conflict, I would be trying to create some because, lets be honest, conflict is what keeps life interesting.

Whether you’re creating it, conquering it, or explaining it, you’re dealing with conflict.

Hell, even Bambi had problems…

This is why all writers should be grateful for conflict – because a good story begins with a good conflict.

Last month, I launched the release of my first novel, Shepherds Moon. It was a labor of love that took nearly two years to complete because life kept getting in the way and because I’m too neurotic to let it go out half-finished. If I really set my mind to it, I could write a 100,000 word novel inside of four months – assuming I didn’t have anything else to do. This one took me over two years. Why? Because I have conflict in my life.

I’m not naïve, nor an amateur, so I do not labor under the delusion that I can sit back and rest after writing that novel. This conflict has only just begun. There are going to be people who love the book and those who hate it. There are going to be good reviews and bad reviews. There will, with luck, be future novels born out of this novel.

In Shepherd’s Moon, my main characters conflict is her fight between animals and humans. While she prefers to remain in the animal world, she is constantly forced back into the human world. As Shepherd, it’s her responsibility to balance both. It would be far easier to lounge around a 100,000 square foot mansion in the desert with her pack. Instead she must go out into the world of humans to protect both her pack and her fellow humans.

It’s the numerous conflicts that I’ve set up for Alex Wilde that makes her life interesting and makes the series worth reading.

This is true for all books. A character may begin the story living what appears to be a perfect, conflict-free life. But that perfect life never lasts past the first act. Eventually, that character must have a conflict, which will migrate into something that must be overcome. The conflict may be a fatal flaw (man vs. self), or a tragic situation (man vs. nature), or a mistake that was made (man vs. society), or something else entirely. Whatever it is, that small problem will become magnified – which eventually turns into; you guessed it, a full-blown conflict.

And in every book, movie or reality show, once the character overcomes the conflict, the story ends.

Why does the story end? Because life without conflict is uninteresting to both the reader and the writer. Face it – you don’t want to read about “perfect” any more than I do.

Perfection is uninteresting, because there is not a single person on earth that can attain it. Whether it’s financial, mental, emotional, or physical, they have conflict. In order to be interesting, to really live life, you have to be in a state of constant state of growth and you can’t have growth without conflict.

It’s a good thing.

Conflict is an opportunity to grow, to learn, to open your mind to new solutions. It’s the reason we were put on this earth and hopefully the reason we will continue to flourish.

So, the next time you think life would be better if you had no challenges, no conflict, remember this: easy isn’t interesting and conflict sells.

What is your conflict and how are you working to turn it into a happy ending?