Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's interesting?

On twitter jay_lake writes: We admire the strong, but the conflicted are more fascinating.

I don't find conflicted people fascinating, except in the way a snake might fascinate a mouse. I might find the conflicts interesting, but I want to resolve them, not wallow in their complexity. Maybe there's no resolution: accept the ambiguity of the situation and figure out the best next action. There's nothing to admire in being conflicted, especially if it also means stuck; decide and move on.

I'm far more curious about exploring strong people. Why are they strong? How'd they get that way? What kinds of situations have they faced? Was it learned or have they always been strong? Do they have any lessons useful to me?


jaylake said...

In context (which I did not supply via Twitter, so this is no failing of yours) the remark was in a discussions of what makes for interesting literary protagonists.

Juat sayin'

Kai Jones said...

For entertainment purposes there has to be conflict, but it doesn't have to be internal. You can be unconflicted and completely wrong, and that can be interesting.

I filtered your "conflicted characters are more interesting" into "adolescent drama! Yay!" I know that's not exactly what you meant.

And yeah, I didn't expect that the Twitter was a complete statement, but I riffed off it because I responded to it.

Justine Musk said...

Oh, I disagree....I find conflicted people inherently more interesting than unconflicted people, and I think for any story to be deeply moving there has to be some kind of inner conflict in the process of getting resolved along with the external conflict -- before the character can resolve the one he needs whatever strength of character he must first get from the other.

Even strong people are conflicted -- they're strong because they encounter and work through their conflicts, not because they don't have any. In fact, people who don't have inner conflicts are often the most dangerous -- sociopaths, for example, know what their agenda is (themselves) and have no problem whatsoever following it.

Action seems to be the key word here...So long as the conflicted character is taking action...Being conflicted doesn't necessarily mean wallowing or being paralyzed with indecision, unless you're Hamlet (and even then the writer somehow managed to pull it off :).