Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Conflict! - a discussion on conflict in fiction
Banes at 10:59AM, July 14, 2015
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It's maybe the essential ingredient in fiction: Conflict.

A character wants something, and someone or something is in the way.

How do you approach conflict in your comics? Are there conflicts you find particularly interesting? Or where you don't think it works or where you think it's done badly?


Thanks in advance for your thoughts n insights!
last edited on July 17, 2015 8:51AM
irrevenant at 7:31PM, July 14, 2015
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I think the best conflicts are probably the ones where the reader can emphasise with both sides of the conflict. Situations where decent people find themselves at loggerheads are fascinating, but even cases where there are clear right and wrong parties are more interesting when you can look at the villain and wish they could have found another way.
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I… probably don't write the best conflict. >_>  I tend to take it too easy on my characters. I'm working on that.
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Aaaaand you've just helped me with a script I was stuck on. Thanks! 
ozoneocean at 9:38PM, July 14, 2015
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In Pinky TA the conflict is Pinky Vs the world.
I'm not clever enough at writing to think about it in more intricate terms.
 
Everything in life is against her: time, co-workers, rivals, the weather, her superiors, clothes (literealy), politics, circumstances… It's omni-conflict, pan-conflict! Uber-conflict!
 
You're meant to sympathise with her if you can, and then take her side against all that assails her… or at least laugh at her intollerance.
 
bravo1102 at 2:50AM, July 15, 2015
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I usually go with “You're royally fucked, now how do you deal with it?”  I set up the conflicts with characters and events and it's up to them to figure it out.  I just throw shit at them and sit back and let it happen.  I'm trying more and more to have some things not resolved and simmering or fading away.

I'm not a very good writer and just let stuff happen.
irrevenant at 3:27AM, July 15, 2015
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Y'know, Stephen King once said something similar. He originally expected Misery to be a short story but his protagonist proved a lot slipperier than he anticipated. xD


(I may have told that anecdote before. ‘Cos. It’s. AWESOME!) 
bravo1102 wrote:
I usually go with “You're royally fucked, now how do you deal with it?”  I set up the conflicts with characters and events and it's up to them to figure it out.  I just throw shit at them and sit back and let it happen.  I'm trying more and more to have some things not resolved and simmering or fading away.

I'm not a very good writer and just let stuff happen.
KimLuster at 5:45AM, July 15, 2015
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Conflict…!!  I love it at all levels!!  Painful and deadly physical conflict!!  Against enemies!!  Conflict between friends and family!!  And totaly against one's self!  I think I like the internal conflicts most of all; where the choices are never easy, and where, often, you're at least partially the cause of the conflicts you find yourself against…
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*Puts geek clothes on*  Back in the day, I had a great group of friends and we all used to play the pen-n-paper RPG called ‘Vampire: the Masquerade’.  Those games were all about conflict!  It was stressed and even had game mechanics built around it.  For instance, the more ‘evil’ acts (ie, killing victims, etc…) that a Vampire committed, the more their ‘Humanity’ eroded, and the more beast-like they'd become!  It was ingenious!
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I was often the ‘Storyteller’ (that is, the gamemaster), and I got the impression everyone loved the stories I crafted (which were chock full of conflict).  But… there was an area where some of them would lovingly point out…  I wouldn't give enough breathing room, a peaceful interlude, whenever one conflict was resolved.  Basically, for conflicts to really hit, you have to have little islands of ‘non-confict’ to contrast against them.
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I've tried to work on that - I've tried to make my story here on DD, the Godstrain, have moments of peace, let poor Kimber Lee gather her wits… but lately I'm having trouble finding the place for one haha
bravo1102 at 8:16AM, July 15, 2015
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I played a similar game called Call of Cthulhu where the involved you became with the universe the less sane you'd become. Only ran one adventure, but it was all about conflict. Then was all my D&D gamemastering. Throw stuff at the characters, immerse  them up to their necks in it, often by surprise. Now deal with it!
last edited on July 15, 2015 8:19AM
KimLuster at 10:28AM, July 15, 2015
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One of our group tooks us through a Cthulhu adventure once…  And when the ‘adventure’ culminated in all of us being captured by these creepy ‘Things’, left hanging in a cavern, and each of us with an eldritch monstrosity growing in our abdomens, we thought… Hmmmm…
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Then the GM told us that all the male characters had no chance of ‘birthing’ the things and surviving, whilst the female characters had a 50/50 chance… we said…  Hey how about some Pizza…! :)
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But I really did like that ‘Sanity’ mechanic you mentioned…  See, it forced hard choices on you!  To combat the Mythos Beings, you had to delve into stuff people ‘were-not-meant-to-know’ to get the knowledge and tools to fight them, but the very act of doing so would erode your sanity!  So… let people die, or risk your humanity?
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Vampire was similar…  The very fact of being a Vampire forced you to do unsavory things.  You had to hunt humans to survive.  And even if you didn't kill them, feeding on them is still very close to rape…   You had to do it, but if you did it callously (and there were times not doing so meant risking your (un)life), you chanced degenerating into a monster on the inside as well as out!
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I loved the Tagline: “Monsters we are - lest Monsters we become”
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Maybe I'm a masochist for liking such things ;)
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Conflict - Baby!!
usedbooks at 3:38PM, July 15, 2015
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I think of conflict as being in two main categories, internal and external. Generally, I hate the former. Maybe it hits too close to home. I find it particularly stressful to the point of painful in fiction.  A character dealing with grief or stress or his own identity or some other factor.  Dramas are especially good at exploiting internal conflict to maximize it.  When it's realistic, it's uncomfortable for the audience, often hitting close to home, and since I have painful levels of empathy, I end up crying… a lot. Sometimes it's unrealistic how much it compounds and could have been resolved with a simple conversation. Then we get into the eye rolling fail of melodrama. 
 
External conflict is what I prefer. It's so much more direct. It's a beast you can see. It's chase scenes and sootouts or a natural disaster or whatever. Of course, most movies and stories have both. In a disaster movie or anything Stephen Kind, the external conflict is only the backdrop for the internal conflict.  It's like the fertilizer to bring out the melodrama in everyone. In an action movie, there's usually some internal conflict (like a distant relationship with a parent or something) that becomes insignificant once the external conflict hits, and then the external battle helps resolve the internal battle, which is so much more fun than talking things out (sometimes it's a matter of yelling things out while a helicopter shoots at you clinging to the top of a train or whatever). 
 
 
In Used Books, I think I focus on the “antagonists'” conflict. They have some sort of issue or objective, and then the protagonists get in the way of that.  More often than not, UB antagonists fulfill their objective. I only just realized that a short time ago. When you start to analyze it, it's a terrible story where the bad guys win all the time. :P When melodrama appears, I try to end it as quickly as possible, but some of the internal conflict has a nastily complicated and drawn out nature because instead of addressing it, I just make more external conflict to deal with. Honestly, I think it grows a bit out of control sometimes. I'm a really bad writer when it comes to resolution.
Ironscarf at 5:02PM, July 15, 2015
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A good story, like a good piece of music, has a series of small conflicts and resolutions, gradually building on each other and working towards the final crescendo of conflict/resolution.
 
Let's say a man goes to the corner shop to buy some milk. They have milk and he buys some. Not much conflict there to make it interesting, so let's say he was rushing out to get milk for his little girl's cornflakes. Breakfast saved and conflict resolved, but it's still a bit dull as the stakes aren't very high.
But wait - as she raises the first spoonful to her lips, the man's wife dives in and knocks the spoon out of her hand, grabbing the bowl and throwing the contents out of the window. Sudden and unexplained action demands resolution - we need to know what's going on.
The wife directs his attention to the breaking news on TV: several children across the city poisoned by freshly purchased cartons of milk. Now we have a nefarious villain and an urgent situation that demands resolution. At this point we discover our milk man is the detective who's job it will be to track down those deadly cartons in a race against time and finally, bring the poisoner to justice or send them to hell on a milk float.
 That opening scene tells us everything we need to know and lays the groundwork for several building conflicts and minor resolutions until the big payoff. You might call this a fast paced thriller and different genres would be paced differently with more time for character building and personality and/or internal conflict.
 
With comics, we've got pictures to go with the words and we can use them to reinforce each other for emphasis, or put them in opposition for even more conflicting fun.
A character might be saying on thing while their actions or expressions say another. Or we could have a character giving someone their version of events in captions, while the panels show the true nature of those events. You could contrast conflict panels like these with harmonious ‘show what’s written' type panels and really bring out the nuances of human interaction. There's endless potential for subtle combinations, which makes comics much more sophisticated than people give them credit for.
 
last edited on July 15, 2015 5:07PM
irrevenant at 7:57PM, July 15, 2015
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I wouldn't say that melodrama is automatically a fail. It's just a different, ddeliberately exaggerated style of storytelling, roughly analogous to something like artistic caricature, opera or punk music. Melodrama can be fun in the same way as any other style that revels in excess. (If you're talking specifically about unintentional melodrama, I totally agree, BTW). 
usedbooks wrote:
Sometimes it's unrealistic how much it compounds and could have been resolved with a simple conversation. Then we get into the eye rolling fail of melodrama.
bravo1102 at 2:55AM, July 16, 2015
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irrevenant wrote:
I wouldn't say that melodrama is automatically a fail. It's just a different, ddeliberately exaggerated style of storytelling, roughly analogous to something like artistic caricature, opera or punk music. Melodrama can be fun in the same way as any other style that revels in excess. (If you're talking specifically about unintentional melodrama, I totally agree, BTW). 
usedbooks wrote:
Sometimes it's unrealistic how much it compounds and could have been resolved with a simple conversation. Then we get into the eye rolling fail of melodrama.
  
Sadly melodrama is very realistic.  Whether it is art imitating life or the other way around, many people are melodramatic and put on shows or coerce others into their little mind games.  Some put off confrontations until they can play to great audience. For some of us we see melodrama and larger than life characters every day and then we come to realize that life is larger than we thought.  People manipulate confrontations and conflict to get people dancing to their tunes precisely because many don't realize they CAN have that conversation.  Express needs and feelings simply and succintly? Never. Suffer in silence until you can make them suffer.
bravo1102 at 2:57AM, July 16, 2015
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Just as Sarte said “Hell is other people” I'd paraphrase it as “Conflict is other people”
usedbooks at 4:20AM, July 16, 2015
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That's probably why I hate it. It usually grows like a sitcom comedy of errors without the comedy. I don't much care for the entirety of “misunderstanding” in fiction. It causes me stress. I understand the function of it in the world. Some work exists to illustrate the horribleness of people or make a social or political statement. (Which I enjoy only through satire, I'm afraid.) and there ae people who love to watch the suffering of others. But I use stories to escape. I need them most when my own life is giving me grief, and the last thing I want is someone else's grief to deal with. It's unrealistic but so much more satisfying to have an obvious villain and a problem that can be overcome by some clear physical means like throwing a ring in a volcano or blowing up a missle base. In real life, you get in trouble for facing up to bullies and doing collateral damage while you do so. In fiction, there is rarely backlash for giving just deserts to a “bad guy” and fate is controlled by the writer, so “karma” is actually real in fiction. And I need that for my escape from reality.
KimLuster at 6:50AM, July 16, 2015
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Bravo is so right about RL People and Melodrama!  I know people that, if their current situation in life doesn't have enough drama, they will intentionally create it and then cry, rail, shout, and just put on a show!!  It's mind-boggling! 
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While it's sometimes amusing to watch such people, I've learned to avoid getting too close to them, relationship-wise…
bravo1102 at 8:01AM, July 16, 2015
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I tend to work through my traumas through my writing nor escape from them. Or at least I like to think so. Difficult people and situations  become grist for my writer's mill. I have been through too much and tweaking those who frustrated me in my fiction is so much fun.
bravo1102 at 8:08AM, July 16, 2015
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I mean tweaking as in both making fun of as well as fiddling around with. I just go “what if?” Making little changes with the situation and viola there's conflict. AND sometimes I create a resolution where there was not one to ease my troubled soul. 
KimLuster at 10:12AM, July 16, 2015
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I've never felt I intentionally did art or stories as a way of dealing with RL trauma, drama, and conflict, but looking back it sure seems like of lots of RL situations and personalities wormed their way in anyway…
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I think such a notion used to be more accepted…  The idea of creating stories based on ‘demons’ swirling around in our heads made them easier to deal with. Watch the movie ‘Quills’, about the Marquis de Sade (played by the fantastic Geoffrey Rush).  While in the asylum, they'd let him write perverted stories under the premise that it was therapeutic; allowed him to ‘get it out’ of his head!  While the movie is full of historical innacuracies, I've read about the notion of the therapeutic writing being more commonplace (of course these days everybody airs out their dirt on facebook ;)
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I'm not sure if it's true, or just a case of ‘art imitates life’, and we all draw from own lives whether we wish to or not…  But it is an interesting thought…  One I'm not sure I like ;)
last edited on July 16, 2015 10:28AM
bravo1102 at 11:11AM, July 16, 2015
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Therapeutic writing is an accepted therapy and coping mechanism. It is also used in problem solving and conflict resolution. You know as in coming up with an action plan to deal with personal conflict. Often this had provided me with inspiration for fictional situations and characters. My therapist would say we are writin our biography everyday and you have the power to make it an interesting and uplifting story. All grist for the mill. Sock it away in the head and when it comes to synthesis look at that I got a story.
KimLuster at 11:30AM, July 16, 2015
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A bit of googling and you're right - therapeutic writing is still very accepted and commonly practiced…  I love still learning stuff I didn't know or assumed wrongly…!
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I wonder… if a lot of Web Comic creators are doing this (purposefully or not)…?  I mean, other than a small readership composed largely of our peers, there's not much reward beyond self-gratifications (which can be very therapeutic)…
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Who knows how many inner RL conflicts I've soothed right here on DD!   World, you are so lucky I have an outlet!!
ozoneocean at 1:41AM, July 17, 2015
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usedbooks wrote:
I don't much care for the entirety of “misunderstanding” in fiction.
 
I cannot stand the “misunderstanding” trope, I just find that SO fucking irritating. I HATE it. Writers who use it need a thorough course of blunt force rauma to the genitals prescribed to them by THIS Dr Oz.
 
I hate people who make melodramas out of misunderstandings in the real world too. When someone tries to explain to you that it's a misunderstanding you're upset over, STFU, extract your head from your anal orrifice and listen to them… or suffocate and die in there, either one is good.
 
If I had character A making a drama out of a misunderstanding and confronting character B over it, I would then have character B call them an idiot and never speak to character A ever again and then character A would be written out of the story permenantly:
Fully unresolved conflict. That's the only way to handle that sort of stupidity.
 
bravo1102 at 3:59AM, July 17, 2015
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Okay so that kind of inter-personal conflict is out.  Fine.  So we won't be seeing anything with Joan Crawford from you. (Back in the day she was known as the queen of melodrama and she was both on and off screen)  But please don't condemn everyone else from exploring those avenues of drama and conflict with such sweeping statements.  Some like to throw a misunderstanding at a characrter, see them wiggle around a bit and then resolve it or let it simmer.

But then I really haven't put any of the stuff I've written like that here. Though come to think of it that is kind of what one of my characters is doing in Tales of SIG.  She will cut herself off from everyone else because she doesn't want their drama.

Usually I resolve stuff in fantasitical ways with the drama queen's head being chopped off, or a nuclear explosion.  It is more fun that way.  Right now the comic I'm doing is heading into a real knock-down drag out fight with as the script says “lots of wire-fu action”

I should be more careful when writing about what I like and don't like in fiction because my choices in what I read and watch or what I write can lead in different directions from what I'm saying.  Here I talk about using life experience to have all this inter-personal conflict when in fact I camouflage it behind a thick wall of fantasy with only tiny bits of my life coming through. Or I put make the situation so ridiculous that the seriousness of the real-life conflict I'm drawing it from vanishes in a haze of fantastical action.  A lot of my frustrations could be solved wtih decapitation but never could get away with it. It's a lot harder than they make it look in movies for one thing.
ozoneocean at 4:49AM, July 17, 2015
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Join a Mexican drug cartel ;)
 
KimLuster at 5:04AM, July 17, 2015
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Lol  Ever since I had children (and some became teen-agers) I've had to learn to deal with melodrama in healthy ways…  You know, since I was told decapitation-therapy wasn't really a good idea!!
bravo1102 at 5:44AM, July 17, 2015
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ozoneocean wrote:
Join a Mexican drug cartel ;)
Actually I've been considering joining Islamic State, ;) 
ozoneocean at 6:58AM, July 17, 2015
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HA! IS? Mexican cartels behead thousands. IS just do one or two for the cameras every now and then.
 
bravo1102 wrote:
But please don't condemn everyone else from exploring those avenues of drama and conflict with such sweeping statements.  Some like to throw a misunderstanding at a characrter…
   
Please don't misunderstand my use of comically extreme hyperbole, I wouldn't want it to be a source of conflict. ;)
 
I love the writing of PG Wodehouse. Most of the jokes are based on “humorous” misunderstandings… Wodehouse handles them like a masterful chess player though, strategically setting one missunderstanding off against another in a careful balancing act of conflicting influences that all work together to ramp up the preasure on the main character and squeeze the humour bubble to bursting point as the story builds to a climax.
 
That is when they're used well.
But for dramatic purposes… it's just tiresome. Even in classic novels it's anoying.
 
bravo1102 at 8:27AM, July 17, 2015
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I just cannot get behind selling drugs. Reestablishing  the Caliphate is a cause I can believe in. ;)
I have to admit to a bit of hyperbole too. :D  I kind of like Thomas
Hardy too and I have come to appreciate the subtle social satire behind Jane Austen almost as if she is laughing at the silliness of the misunderstanding despite herself and asking the reader to politely hide a smile behind  our handkerchief. 
last edited on July 17, 2015 8:29AM
Smilocide at 7:45PM, Aug. 2, 2015
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LOVE the Wodehouse reference. Too true.
Of course, a lot of conflict can come with only one character, or without character conflicting with one another, ie, survival/man vs. nature stories (yes, you can argue nature is the character man is inconflict with, but let's not be tedious).
Personally, I usually just try to think of what my characters want and then decide how to deprive them of it.
 
I love the writing of PG Wodehouse. Most of the jokes are based on “humorous” misunderstandings… Wodehouse handles them like a masterful chess player though, strategically setting one missunderstanding off against another in a careful balancing act of conflicting influences that all work together to ramp up the preasure on the main character and squeeze the humour bubble to bursting point as the story builds to a climax.
 
Genejoke at 2:53AM, Aug. 3, 2015
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ozoneocean wrote:
usedbooks wrote:
I don't much care for the entirety of “misunderstanding” in fiction.
  
I cannot stand the “misunderstanding” trope, I just find that SO fucking irritating. I HATE it. Writers who use it need a thorough course of blunt force rauma to the genitals prescribed to them by THIS Dr Oz.
 
I hate people who make melodramas out of misunderstandings in the real world too. When someone tries to explain to you that it's a misunderstanding you're upset over, STFU, extract your head from your anal orrifice and listen to them… or suffocate and die in there, either one is good.
 
If I had character A making a drama out of a misunderstanding and confronting character B over it, I would then have character B call them an idiot and never speak to character A ever again and then character A would be written out of the story permenantly:
Fully unresolved conflict. That's the only way to handle that sort of stupidity.
Hah, funny and a very melodramatic response to melodrama.  I guess it depends on what you want from fiction.  I find melodrama annoying but realistic, it's very much down to the character of the circumstances the character is in, so if it fits, it goes in the story. 

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