“Imagine there’s no countries, / It isn’t hard to do. / Nothing to kill or die for, / And no religion, too. / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace.”
While Lennon’s concept strikes me as ideal, it would be far from perfect in a novel. Instead, novels thrive on conflict. If all the countries and characters in the book coexist in peace and harmony, readers have no reason to read the book, because they have no curiosity about how things will turn out. Obviously everything would turn out fine; nothing would change.
Aha! What if things began peacefully, as Lennon wished things could be, but something shifted. Perhaps one character discovers a reason not to trust another. Perhaps one country suspects another country wants to steal its land, people, or natural resources. Maybe one character becomes motivated to dupe, mislead, or even murder another. When things change, readers become interested.
Conventional wisdom says that the best novels start in the middle of conflict, when things are already going wrong, but creative writing knows no rules. I can think of at least one good novel that starts out with everything moving along swimmingly, but things slowly go awry. As a result I found myself captive by the book Scarlett Feather by Mauve Binchy.
A warning to fellow writers: imagine all you want, but be sure you imagine conflict in your novels, or you will be writing a saga, memoir, or biography, instead.
Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas, owner of Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm, is the author of an award-winning book on creative writing titled Write In Style. Order your copy today at http://tinyurl.com/o4trud2or http://tinyurl.com/pnq5y5s, or order a signed copy at http://tinyurl.com/nm84p3k.
Bobbie Christmas also writes a funny, sometimes creepy, but always interesting and true blog about her encounters with the opposite sex. To read and follow her blog titled “Neurotica: Stories of Lust, Love, and Letting Go,” see www.NeuroticaStories.blogspot.com