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Plot and Conflict: A Delicate Balance

Since I’ve really just been breaking down the process of writing and pieces that put together a story, I’ve decided to go ahead and tackle this issue of plot. Inevitably, I also have to talk about conflict.

It’s easy to confuse plot and story. Plot is not the story, but story usually has plot. Plot is the events that happen in the novel and relate in a certain order to help make the story. How do these events relate? They relate because they’re connected by one central conflict. This goes not only for books, but short stories, plays, movies etc.

Conflict drives the plot. Conflict whether internal or external, silly or serious, is what makes the plot unfold and the events in a book to happen. Conflict isn’t just a fight mind you. It’s a problem, issue, or situation that connects all the events and gives them importance. Now why is this important? Why do these two things depend so closely on one another?

Let’s take out conflict. What if there was no conflict and all that we’re left with is plot? You’re going to end up with an unfocused story. Things are just going to happen and they won’t have a connection, which means they’ll have no point or purpose. The thing about writing anything that’s fictional is that you have to write towards some type of end and a central conflict is what helps build toward that end. Conflict helps us weed out the unimportant events that have nothing to do with the story we’re trying to create. Otherwise, we just have a whole bunch of events that may have something to do with each other, but the reader doesn’t know because there is no conflict. By the very definition of plot, when this happens, there is no plot because plot is events and their relation to each other.

Now what if we throw out plot and just focus on conflict. Tsh… at least with a bunch of events there’s some semblance of a story. With conflict all you have is a bunch of people with problems and nothing ever getting resolved. That’s a whole other problem in itself that we don’t want to deal with. No one is going to waste time reading a bunch of conflict that never gets resolved.

So now what is the result when we put these two parts together? We get the story. The plot focuses itself around the conflict. Any event that happen either helps to resolve or even make worse the central conflict. Doing this helps to build up to an end. This is especially important in a book because the book has to end. It’s not like a TV show where a series, like the Simpsons as much as I despise the show, can go on forever with each episode having a plot but the series as a whole not having one. Soap operas are also good examples. But a book has to end, and that’s what makes the relationship between plot and conflict so important.

So when people say, “if there is no conflict, there is no plot,” they mean that the events that are happening aren’t related in some way shape or form. You can’t have one without the other, and that’s why there is a delicate balance between them. They rely on each other.

Wow!  I learned a lot from just writing this and I hope someone else did too. It explains why I can’t write a short story... I’ll get to that one later. Since this got so long though, stay tuned tomorrow for the continuation. The difference between the main plot and the sub plot!

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