Writing Secrets: A life full of troubles? Great, use them

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

We all know (or we should) that no story can exist without conflict. But not everyone recognises why this is so.

Discussing the elements of story recently, we were asked: “But how does that work in memoir? There’s no conflict there.”

We had to explain that, of course, the opposite is true. It’s not only fiction which requires conflict. Every story does – fiction or non-fiction.

And why should this be so? Conflict is the basic element of any story because no life exists without conflict, much as we might long for contentment.

It’s the reason we have told stories since humans had language. We tell stories to rehearse for the roles we might have to play. We listen to stories as a celebration of life – to cheer on those who have faced conflict, and overcome their problems.

What is true is that you can’t “make up” conflict, or enhance it for dramatic purposes, if you’re setting out to write non-fiction. But you don’t need to. Our lives are filled with it.

If you struggle to recognise that, you might be misunderstanding the concept. Don’t confuse literary conflict with fighting. You might not go around battling everyone in your vicinity. But you certainly face obstacles.

Your business is struggling, your child develops an addiction, your spouse seems to have formed an attachment elsewhere.

It’s these struggles which keep us interested, whether we’re reading fiction or non-fiction. If the character in a memoir doesn’t face obstacles, and fight to overcome them, why would we be interested in his story?

We might long for the happy ever after but, as we know, that’s when the story ends.

Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: Pluck from your dream the luminous image

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