I’m not sure when I realized it, but disagreement can be one of the easiest ways to drive dialogue and plot forward. When people disagree they are forced to explain themselves more clearly. Plus, if one character is playing the devil’s advocate, you can lay out the strengths and weaknesses and potential perils. It’s a great tool. It also shows how the characters interact when they are not pleased with each other. How do they respond when they feel threatened or disrespected? It tests the relationship and allows for growth.
But recently I feel like I’ve been using it too much. Granted, sometimes when I am editing I have to read sections and chapters and in the whole manuscript over and over again. It can feel like I am repeating arguments and conflict over and over again.
Early on in my writing I had very little conflict between characters. At that point in my life I hadn’t experienced a lot of conflict in my relationships. We moved so much that there were few relationships that lasted more than a few years. And I was shy and quiet. If I felt uncomfortable with someone, I simply wouldn’t pursue friendship. Sometimes I would even cut them off. My relationships with my siblings were the important ones that I held onto.
On the other hand, I did start arguing a lot with my sister in high school. I don’t remember it as arguing, but my family does. I recognized in late middle school that I liked to play devil’s advocate. I like to look at every topic from both sides. So if my sister took one side, I naturally took the other and argued it very loyally whether I believed it or not. She took it personally. (Oops)
So I’m on the fence about this. There are two characters that I’m working with at this point who seem to be having a lot of conflict. This may sound strange, but I’m trying to figure out why. I went into this book with a clear plan for these two. They were going to experience a major disagreement and stop speaking for a while. But as I’ve been examining the arc of their relationships I feel like they have a lot of mini arguments (or maybe it’s the repeat readings that seems to multiply them). Here’s the thing: in my life I don’t argue with people I don’t trust. It’s that simple. It I think that you’re going to misunderstand me I wait and try to communicate it in another way. If I’m unsure of your standing on the issue I keep it to myself.
I don’t engage in conflict for the sake of itself. Conflict and disagreement are a sign of trust. These two characters have pretty much been honest the entire time. They bounce ideas off each other. They call each other out. Sometimes it’s a challenging relationship, but it’s a safe relationship.
I guess I’m just trying to figure out if my readers see it as a healthy relationship or not. Do they argue too much? Could I communicate their relationship in another way?
I am considering adding some more fluff and bonding. Does that make me weak? It makes me feel like I might be compromising. But in truth, I know these characters in a way my readers don’t. All they know is what I put on the page. #thestruggleisreal