Conflict is like stress – we need a little to make life interesting.
Conflict is at the core of good fiction. I’m not talking about violent conflict like war, although that is often an outward manifestation of characters’ inner conflicts.
The most powerful conflict is between reality and desire. Ad copywriters are masters of using this conflict to persuade millions of people to buy products to solve it.
All you have to do is look at the diet industry in the United States. How many of us desire to be slim and fit but are nowhere near that ideal? We live with the conflict between our desire to be fit and the reality that we don’t eat right or get enough exercise. Along comes someone with a pill or an exercise gadget.
“If you use this product, it will make it easier to achieve your desire,” is the pitch.
Need another example? How about life insurance? Pay attention to all the commercials directed at middle-aged folks. They know the Grim Reaper is lurking. They’re beginning to attend more funerals than baby showers. They don’t want to leave a mess for their children to deal with, but they never bought life insurance.
The conflict is between the reality that the older a person gets, the harder it is to get life insurance, and the desire to lessen the burden on survivors. Never fear! There’s a policy for that!
Often we forget we’re in the business of helping solve the conflict between what our customers or clients desire and what their reality is. The trick is to determine the needs gap – the gap between the state of reality at this point and the desired state. Once we know that, we’re much better equipped to show how we can help resolve the conflict.
Tapping into and using conflict in writing isn’t all that easy. If it was, we’d all be millionaires!