Satisfaction in the Conflict
Written from Trapani, Sicily, Italy
Great stories have a way of sucking you in and holding you captive at the edge of your seat. With colourful detail, they tell of treasures and quests, true love and heartbreak, heroes and villains. They introduce the most bold and daring hero, the most warm and angelic girl and the most wretched and twisted monster. A fight between good and evil worthy of dramatic scores by Hans Zimmer. A tale of romance that would make Nicholas Sparks shed a tear. And just in that moment when you think you've unraveled the story's mystery, it twists around and takes you on a new journey you weren't expecting.
Those stories... those are the ones we tell over and over again.
If we are so inclined, we can dissect a great story, revealing its able bones. There, hidden amongst witty lines and turning points, we find a noteworthy story-telling device that every great story since the beginning of time has used: conflict.
While scary and daunting, it plays a tremendous part in bringing a story to life.
Love stories that undergo no major conflict are boring, not to mention unrealistic. Where's the doubt? Where's the fight? Where's the misinterpreted flirtatious gestures that all of us remember with cringing faces? We feed on conflict because conflict brings a subtle element of realism to an otherwise too-perfect fairy tale.
BUT... conflict alone is just as bad as no conflict at all. Imagine if you saw a movie in which the main character leads his armies to the Great Plains to face off against the evil hoard. A trumpet sounds in the distance as thousands of soldiers, white-knuckled fists gripping their weapons, charge foward toward the onslaught. Swords slice through armor, arrows pierce flesh, heads roll, and then... so do the credits.
"What?! I paid $8.50 for this? Where's the ending? What happens to the hero?"
We hate stories that leave us wanting. I'm not talking about a well-written cliff hanger that piques our interest for the sequel. Even those wrap up the story with some sense of finality.
We have an innate need to be satisfied. Conflict, in partnership with resolution, progresses story through to the end and gives the audience a stable place on which to stand. Resolution takes the conflict and makes every tear worth it. Either we celebrate with our battle-worn victors or we breathe a sigh of defeat. Whichever it may be, we feel satisfied in the story.
So fight. Fight for your resolution. Fight for your victory. Fight so that you can be satisfied in your well-told story.