Getting confrontationalon February 15, 2012 at 12:01 am
On the comments for last week’s comic, an interesting point was brought up. Can’t all this potential violence be solved by just handing Zeke (or technically, the zombie-formerly-known-as-Zeke) over?
Possibly. Seems like it could work. Will it be tried? That’s for me to know, and you to find out. Right now, it seems like Suzie and Muriel are hell bent on sizing each other up, and that’s not leaving much room for logic.
But hey, that speaks to me. Most of the confrontations I’ve gotten into in my life are not really a matter of destiny, so much as an interaction that spirals out of control, often without any warning. One or both of you has had a bad day, and suddenly your hearts are thudding away and you’re screaming horrible things, with the blood buzzing in your ears drowning out all sense except your need for Fight or Flight.
Of course there’s certainly something to be said for the epic clash of legendary figures, foretold in prophecy to decide whether the land will survive, or fall to everlasting darkness. But I think movies like Unforgiven or various Coen brothers offerings show an equally compelling vision of the kind of conflict we’re more familiar with… the ones that spring not from starkly defined avatars of good and evil, but from unfortunate coincidences, bad timing, and tempers in the heat of the moment.
Regardless of which type you’re going for, writing a believable confrontation shares a common element, whether it’s a staredown between cosmic beings deciding the fate of the multiverse, or two middle-aged moms spying the last available Christmas toy their child had their hearts set on. I heard it expressed best by Bob Goodwin, who sat next to me on the “Violence in Storytelling” panel at CombatCon last year, and while I can’t supply an exact quote, this is basically what he said:
When you have a confrontation going on between characters, imagine they’re in a room, and behind each is a door. If they turn around and leave through that door, they’re free. The confrontation is over.
Why don’t they use that door?
Greed? Revenge? Pride? Honor? Protecting others? Or even, as noted above, the simple fight or flight decision of a tense moment unraveling beyond reason, causing a fist to be thrown instead of unclenched?
If, as a writer, you don’t have an answer as to why the characters in your staredown don’t just leave/give ground, then any subsequent conflict may ring a little hollow.
In subsequent weeks, I suppose we’ll be finding out how well I can practice what I preach. For now, though, as I write this it’s Valentine’s Day in the States, and I promised I’d put my meager cooking skills to the test tonight in whipping up a meal for Dawn and myself. See you next time!