Nice? Not Nearly As Interesting As It Sounds

November 15th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Arguably, the great romantic story of our youth was that of Luke and Laura. Do not pretend you don’t know what we mean. Though things began inauspiciously, we found ourselves rooting for these star-crossed…well, their triumph was ours. But Luke and Laura as an old married couple? Dull. It was the conflict, the battles, the rising above ordinary humanity. Hmm, something tells us we may be projecting false memories on this posting.

For writers, conflict is our Holy Grail. Writing a book where everyone gets along is sort of like watching paint dry.

Then someone had the courage to challenge the status quo and a new idea was born.

The lesson is also vivid in the arts. Only through avoiding consensus, only through steadfastly refusing to be unified, have artists progressed and evolved.

If people simply shrugged and imitated what everybody agreed was a great idea — a mega-grossing movie, a hit TV show, a best-selling book, a Broadway show that packed ’em in — we’d be drowning in endless iterations of “E.T.,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Cats.”

What enables the creation of new and scintillating takes on the human condition, though, is a stubborn resistance to consensus. The great revolution in a whole range of arts, from Wordsworth’s determination to give poetry an authentic voice to “NYPD Blue’s” Steven Bochco’s conviction that TV drama can be as gritty and textured and paradoxical as life itself, has always come out of the blue, by somebody who looked upon consensus and shuddered.

Do not fear conflict — we so often hear from beginning writers that they don’t want to be mean to their characters. No, we say, you must be cruel. Start vicious and make it even worse. Writing is not the time to avoid conflict. It is only when you push boundaries that you learn about yourself and create work.

File Under: Square Pegs