I’m a peace keeper. I’ve always known I was a peace keeper, but it was never something I thought about or even acknowledged until my kids became teens and conflict in the family got more pronounced. Of course there has been conflict between the kids since Vicky could talk, but teenage conflict includes parents. It was Alex’s Freshman year when I cognitively realized how much I hate conflict. I instinctively do whatever I have to do to squash it. The trouble with that is it doesn’t teach anything. If I give in to keep the peace, I create monsters, and monsters are one of the things I hate more than conflict.
When I went to the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference last spring, one of the comments I got was that I didn’t have conflict in a scene. Since I’ve started editing “Hope And A Future” I’ve realized that my hatred of conflict has infiltrated my writing. One of my writer friends who read the first several pages suggested that a character be cut since she don’t serve much of a purpose. My first thought was, “I can’t cut Charlotte! She’s the source of conflict!”
Here’s a test, writer friends. If you cut one antagonist, do you still have conflict? I had one Nellie Olson who moved up her wedding and moved away in the second or third chapter. After Charlotte left, everyone played nicely together and the conflict was confined to internal (struggle with faith and grief) or external (freak snow storm, falling trees). There’s no fighting. The bickering is confined to the children.
Then there’s Frank, my wildcard. He pops in and performs admirably when I need him, and then he disappears. I have whole chapters, probably multiple chapters, with no Frank. His name might be mentioned, but he’s nowhere to be found. He must be off somewhere with the sheep. It would be easy enough to cut him. His scenes could be rewritten without too much trouble. Or I could rewrite him, make him younger so he becomes the spoiled late-in-life child. He wouldn’t be as obnoxious as Nellie Olson, but maybe I could make him a 9 year old Albert Ingalls with a dash of Laura. He can’t be too spoiled; the story is set in the back country, and everyone who can walk has chores to do. I could make him more mischievous, though, maybe prone to whining and pointing out to his brother and sisters (who are raising him) that they’re not his parents. That will take more rewriting. I’d have to thread him in. But it would give me conflict that’s more tangible instead of throwing accidents and natural disasters at my group of Care Bears.
I’m glad I figured this out before the conference.