Where’s the conflict?

writing

A story I wrote recently came back after some time away on submission, rejected but with several rounds of comments. I’m usually glad of comments, even if the piece is ultimately declined. It’s a chance to learn, to really see your work through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes, of course, the comments come from a parallel universe which appears to have very little in common with your own.

One of these recent critiques struck me. Where’s the conflict? it asked. Why doesn’t the character grow and change? These are valid concerns and good questions to ask, especially if you are to avoid the dread vignette. But conflict can take many forms. Life is not all about arguments and violence.┬áConflict can be something perceived only by the protagonist, something internal. So can growth and change.

Perhaps I’ve counted too much on the recognition of experience. The reader’s understanding, without too much being stated, that this is how the character would feel, that this is the conflict she would be experiencing.

I’d argue, too, that not everyone grows. We become stuck in our ways, despite the evidence, despite the prods the universe gives us. That’s part of the human condition, often a sad part. I’m tempted to add that the need for overt conflict is a very male trait, though I’m not sure if that’s entirely true.

I’m rewriting that story. But not too much. Sometimes the quietest things are the best.

Onwards and upwards.

woman warrior

Write like a man

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I can’t stop thinking about Catherine Nichols’ article Homme de Plume: What I learned sending my novel out under a Male Name.
My first reaction was … I want to say disbelief, but that’s not quite right. Something more akin to weariness, something like really, still, again? And then I thought about one of my writing classes. The tutor was a woman, a much loved, insightful, published author. But she did favour the boys! And it took me a while to get my head around that. A person I admired, whose opinions I cherished who, nonetheless, was more laudatory of male writing, more critical of female. And someone who, I think, though I’m truly guessing, would be horrified to realise this bias.
And then there’s this interesting article by Jessica Norell which discusses some of the workplace experiences of transgender people. The same person, different gender perceptions, different treatment.
It’s tempting, but I don’t think I’m quite prepared to submit using a male name. Though I have thought one up that matches my initials. Just in case.
johnny depp 3