I’d like to start by saying thank you to those who responded to yesterday’s blog. Between opinions, advice and recommended reading, I managed to crack the love story issue last night. It took three hours, but the shape of the plot is now drafted and the first chapter written. Ta muchly!
Today’s challenge is kind of at the other end of the spectrum. Make war, not love, or something of the sort. All stories must have some kind of conflict, be it internal, natural or against another person(s). Without conflict, there isn’t much of a story because what is there to progress or resolve? In some cases it can just be a puzzle or mystery; in others, a personal issue to overcome. Today, though, I’d like to look at physical conflict on a large scale. War and invasion.
Wars are a fantastic backdrop for a story. So many stories can happen within them, they provide multiple opportunities to challenge the protagonists, and a handy way of getting rid of characters should you so desire. But you can’t just have a war for its own sake. Everything must happen for a reason. For Homer, the reasons were numerous – a chance to take over the lucrative trade route from Troy, an opportunity to try and unite Greece against a common enemy, and because the gods wanted to rid the world of heroes so they made it happen. For Tolkein, the reason was a mixture of fear (Sauron wanted his ring of power back) and greed (he’d take the rest of the world whilst he was at it), plus an underlying and unsustainable culture clash between Mordor and Gondor. For Rowling… um… Voldemort was bad, m’kay?
Why do wars happen in real life? It’s usually not about the stated reason – Helen of Troy was only the excuse, as was Franz Ferdinand and the WMDs (maybe – not getting into the politics of that here). So what are the underlying reasons? Wikipedia blames WW1 on ‘imperialistic foreign policies of the great powers of Europe’, which frankly seems like a crap reason for invasion and wholesale slaughter. The current Middle East conflict is largely attributed to greed for oil, plus an initial fear over what they could do to us if they wanted. The English Civil War grew out of a political and religious clash; the War of the Roses and the American Civil War both basically boiled down to who was in charge of where.
At a basic level, we seem to keep coming back to fear and greed. But wars are expensive things, so the greed pay-off has got to be pretty impressive. Now, I have an ongoing conflict that runs throughout my story between two countries, lasting on and off for around 400 years. Currently the motivation is resources – one country wants them and doesn’t have much of them, whilst the other has them in spades but isn’t prepared to share. That driver seems a little weak to me for such a prolonged fight, but then so do most of the reasons for the real wars cited above.
So here’s a question for you: what would you consider to be a good reason? Can there ever be one?