Thursday, May 6, 2010

In Which There Is Too Much Conflict?

So a few months ago I wrote about how, though I loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I felt the pace was just a bit too fast. I mean, I understood why it was effective. I literally could not put them down. But I like my stories to let me enjoy them a bit and a manic pace takes much of the leisurely love out of the equation.

Still, as a writer, better to have a manic pace than a slow one.

I think I've found a book that has the same issue, but in regards to conflict instead of pace.

I'm reading A Game of Thrones and there is so so much conflict I actually want to hide a bit.

Too much conflict you say? No such thing!

Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up (HA! I love you Inigo Montoya)

I love the characters in this book. Love them so much. I want things to go well for them and I want them to be happy and smiling etc.

I most certainly don't want bad things to happen to them.

And they do, ohhh yes they do.

It got to a point the other night where something HORRIBLE happened (not that I didn't see it coming, but there were a few betrayals that were shocking) and I actually had to close the book and set it aside (much like I did with HP 7 when (HARRY POTTER SPOILER ALERT!!) Fred died. Of course, I could only put that down for like 5 minutes. But still...)

I'm still upset about that...

It was just too much horribleness happening to the characters. And to make it worse, this is book 1 of 4 so I know NOTHING will be resolved until I read 3 more novels.

Sigh. Just too much conflict.

Of course, I picked it back up after a bit and continued on. Still a lot of bad stuff happening but I can take a breath now.

So this is why I don't like too much conflict. Even if there was just one little nice thing that happened for the characters it would carry me through the rest of the trouble. But over the top conflict makes me have to set the book down.

But not forever. Just for a moment. Then I continue on.


Michelle Scott said...

Okay, now I have to read those books! I know why you mean about too much conflict. I just finished Stephen King's The Dome and I was so tense! But then again, I really enjoyed it.

Falen said...

Michelle - oooh yeah Under the Dome is a perfect example of that. I knew in the beginning, when things started to go a little bad, that they were going to get much much worse before they got better.
and boy was i right...

Summer said...

I'm right there with you. I feel so connected to the characters that I hate for bad things to happen...

Kinda like when I watch The Office and cringe while Michael makes a huge ass of himself. :-)

Jaydee Morgan said...

I've never thought of the issue of too much conflict before but it makes sense. I like your idea of:

"Even if there was just one little nice thing that happened for the characters it would carry me through the rest of the trouble."

It's definitely something I will keep in mind.

Emily White said...

I know what you mean about too much. When I was reading LOTR and got to the part where Frodo "dies," I had to put the book down. I almost didn't pick it back up until I decided to thumb through the next few dozen pages and saw that he was talking to Sam.

And Fred dying was traumatizing. Not cool, J.K. Rowling. Not. Cool.

Matthew Rush said...

Hmm, I can see your point but I would have to read it for myself to know for sure if I felt the same way.

Thanks for the warning!

Christine Danek said...

So now I have more books to add to my list. DO you know where I can get more time?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I understand how you feel.

And I love it when Michael on the office makes an ass of himself!

Alexandra Shostak said...

Haha, the way I get over that is to side with the antagonists. I have a weird affinity for Jaime Lannister. ;) (I think I know which scene you're talking about--does it have to do with someone falling out of a window? If it does, that part made me SO upset.)

Dude, in HP book 5 when Sirius died, I was a MESS. And I'm still bitter that he was only in 3 of 7 books.

Anne said...

Yeah Under the Dome is a good example. Or any 2nd book in any of Robin Hobb's trilogies.
Sometimes the issue i have with those types of books is that they run the danger of me not liking them. If the author takes away all the hope, then what's left to enjoy? In a series, the least favorite book is usually one where the characters lives become a trainwreck- in my experience, the books where the characters get redeemed tend to be more favorable.

But maybe that's just me talking, and i'm sure that doesn't hold true for every novel

Patti said...

I agree. All I hear about is tension, conflict, but sometimes a novel needs to slow down for a minute.

There have been some tv shows I've stopped watching because nothing good ever happens for the characters. It's just too depressing.

Piedmont Writer said...

Wow, I didn't know that Fred died. That's too bad but thanks for telling me.

I agree. Too much conflict leaves me all jumpy and weirdified like I need to come down from a bad hit of acid or something. (Not that I know what that feels like but I'm just saying.)

I need to have a couple of breathing moments, a couple of happy things in a story. It can't be all bad.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I'm with you. I like conflict to ebb and flow, following an arc that gives me time to react, digest, and chill out before the next wave of disaster hits. Too much of any good thing can be bad.

Funny, I posted about conflict today too!

AchingHope said...

True. I think there has to be a balance, where there's enough conflict for the character's to suffer, but enough good things to make the conflict that much worse, but still give the reader time to breathe. Oh! That's done in scripts and it's called falling action, I think?

Ah! I actually learned stuff in that class??!

Falen said...

Summer - THAT right there is why i don't watch The Office

Jaydee - i doesn't have to be anything big at all. Just enough for me to take a deep breath

Emily - yeah not cool at all. i still don't understand why the weasley's just couldn't come through the whole thing unscathed

Mathew - it is a pretty awesome book. And HBO picked up the series with Sean Bean so that is AWESOME

Christine - if you have that alien power from out of this world, you could stop time. Then, you could do TONS OF STUFF while time around you was on pause

Alex - i'm ok with michael making as ass of himself as long as he's not hurting or making an ass of other people. That's when i get upset. Like when he burned his foot on the george foreman grill? Effing comedy gold!

Alexandra - yeah Jaime does have some weird appeal. And no it's not that scene, but that one was TERRIBLE! And so early in the book. I guess that should have been a hint of the terrible stuff to come
Ugh i loved Sirius Black so much. I kept excpecting him to come back... sad.

Anne - ESPECIALLY in the second forest mage book. And you saw it coming after like page 1. It was all a "!" book.
But at least with her, i knew everything would more or less work out in the end

Patti - that's the way it is with Lost right now. But at least that will be done, one way or another, in a few weeks.

Piedmont - AWWW! You shouldn't have read the spoiler! also i agree, it's totally the way i imagine a bad hit of acid. Except without halucinations

Nicole - ebb and flow is a perfect example!

Teebore said...

See also: Lost

Or most Stephen King books. I'm still mad about some of the people who died in the Stand.

Kay said...

My local critique group had much the same discussion last night.

Do you have to cram conflict/problems into every chapter or can you let your characters take a respite and develop another aspect of their lives beyond the emergency.

Since we aren't published (or near to it?), we decided the question was a mote point.

Falen said...

Teebore - true. And yes, as a child i was very very upset when Nick died. I still hate it when i reread it

Kay - Ha! i personally like a bit of respite but i don't think that's the popular opinion in "the biz"

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I agree with you - but it also depends on the book you're reading, doesn't it? In a thriller the pace should be fast - but in a drama it should be slower, but not too slow. It's hard:) I'm reading a book right now that is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to slow - the plot is really nice, but it's so sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow - know what I mean? :)

Palindrome said...

I can't remember what I've read like that, but I've read something like that.

The last episode of Buffy was like that. Too much! too much!!

I don't mind it but I usually have to read/watch/listen a few times to get the full impact of it all.

Nice Princess Bride quote. I love that part and his voice. I heart me some Mandy.

Falen said...

Alexandra - yeah i hear you and i will certainly say that too slow or too little conflict is worse that too much conflict

Hannah - have you read Under the Dome? That thing is one giant book of anxiety and foreshadowing. And the characters can't do anything because they're STUCK UNDER AN EFFING DOME!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I recently read a book where this happened. It wasn't so much the tension, there were times the pace slowed then sped up, but it was the constant doom and gloom that surrounded the characters. I'm not sure one good thing happened to any of them. By the end I need a spa treatment, chocolate and sunshine to recover from how depressing it was. All I got was chocolate out of the deal lol.
My crit group and I discuss this tension in every page/every chapter a lot. I for the sake of my sanity and my reader, while I give each chapter some conflict, I lower the dial a few times. Cause you make a good point, it takes away the relaxation of enjoying characters you want to spend time with.

Anonymous said...

Love that you referenced The Princess Bride! What a classic.

Laura Marcella said...

I agree with you about too much conflict!!! Sometimes I have to put it down and catch my breath, but I always continue reading! (I agree with the Harry Potter moment you mentioned. To me, that's the worst death in the entire series.)

I haven't read The Hunger Games yet, but I've heard so much great buzz about it that I think I better buy it this weekend. I must know what everyone's talking about!

Joan Crawford said...

Let me 'splain - HA!


"I do not think that word means what you think it means..."

Rodents of Unusual Size!?

Okay, okay, I'm done.

Eyes like the sea after a storm...

I read the Hunger Games thanks to you and I loved it and Catching Fire as well. Let us know the final verdict...I await good new books :)

Joan Crawford said...

P.S. 156 followers!? Hot Damn, Missy!

Ted Cross said...

A Game of Thrones was the book that finally made me sit down and begin to type out a book for the first time ever, so I owe it a lot. I love it, and for me the tension and conflict were amazing. That said, I pace things more slowly in my own writing, probably because I love Tolkien so much.

India Drummond said...

I've seen some authors who are just ruthless with killing off characters, even main POV characters.

It can be a bit of a shock, but if it's within the rules of the book (and not a nasty surprise at the end) I think it works.

JKR killed off a well-loved character in nearly every book. You really should have seen that coming!

Falen said...

Erica - i had that problem with The Road. When i was done balling and contemplating suicide i decided that i kinda wish i hadn't read it. I had a hard time finding any sort of redeeming qualities in it

Kelly - it's TOTES one of the best classics EVAH!

Laura - i completely agree that it was the worst death. i just found it completely unfair

Joan - HA! ROUSs! ahhh good times.
156 is crazy, right?

Ted - that is so awesome that you can pinpoint a specific book that encouraged you to be a writer! I can only blame my fanfiction

India - as a twin myself, it always really bothers me when an author kills of one of a set of twins. It's like killing 2 people. and i know straight up that she was originally going to kill Mr Weasley but then decided not to and needed another weasley. Boo on that.

Southpaw said...

I agree. There has to be breathers in there.

Kittie Howard said...

I agree with what Nicole commented. Conflict needs an ebb and flow. And too much conflict, for the sake of conflict, is a complete turn-off. Won't buy that author again.

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