I've been thinking a lot about the nature of conflict lately, and hopefully I'm not alone in feeling frustrated over how to successfully generate it within a story.
For a long time I thought of conflict as a form of arguing, fighting. Then I started to factor in elements of things being thrown out of balance, and needing to be fixed--brought back to equilibrium.
But in the past few weeks, I really came to a slightly different understanding of conflict. Working with Jim through my own novel, it became more and more apparent that I was writing about potential conflict, rather than writing conflict itself.
An epiphany is still on its way, but I found clarity in this thought:
Conflict arises when there is some incongruence.
It's not that something isn't compatible or out of place, it's like what Jim says in that article. There are two truths against each other.
"I'm looking down on Wayne's basement... only that's not Wayne's basement!"
And more to the point, it doesn't just create conflict for a particular POVs or the Players who represent them... but for the Storymind itself. And for the Audience Mind reading the work.
I'm reminded of that short horror story:
A father passes his son's bedroom to find him still awake. He sits down, asks the boy what's wrong.
"There's a monster under my bed," the boy says.
"There's no such thing as monsters, son. Now get back to sleep."
"No! I can't! I saw it! It's there. Under my bed!"
"Would it help if I checked?"
"No! Don't do that! Daddy, please, I'm scared."
Confident there are no such thing as monsters, the father reassures his boy. He tucks him in and before leaving the room, he checks under the bed for posterity. But to his surprise, he finds someone hiding beneath on the floor.
It's his son, who looks up at him, terrified.
"Daddy, help me, there's a monster in my bed!"
... to me, that describes Conflict.
Something that makes the mind go, What? Wait... no... How can that...? That can't be... That's not right... I don't understand how... etc.