Friday, January 28, 2011

DEVOTION - Conflict: Great in our stories and not so fun in real life

by Narelle Atkins

One thing I’ve learned as a fiction writer is that I need compelling conflict in my stories. My characters need to have conflicting goals and face obstacles as they strive to achieve their story goals. It’s a universal truth in storytelling and true for all fiction genres.

Like many new writers, I discovered early on that my stories lacked conflict. I write romance and romance readers want to journey with the hero and heroine, experience the struggles they face, and cheer as the characters overcome problems on the way to their happily-ever-after ending. Conflict is an essential component of a story. Whilst fiction writers must learn to make life difficult for their characters, to make them suffer and struggle to achieve what they want, we’re not usually comfortable with conflict in real life.

In 1971, Malcolm Fraser, a former Prime Minister of Australia, made a famous quote: ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’. We live in a fallen world and, at times, we all make selfish decisions that hurt others. Our world is full of suffering and we can often feel powerless to instigate change and show Christian love to our neighbours. World peace is perceived to be a worthy but unobtainable goal as conflicts arise within and between nations. We have polluted our environment and many of us wonder if it’s too late to reverse the ecological damage. As Christians, we will have conflict in our relationship with God during the times when we are rebellious and sin instead of following God’s will for our lives. Thankfully, Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23-24 (NIV) ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’

Peace is one of the fruits of the spirit that Paul mentioned in Galatians 5:22. In Matthew 5:29, Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.’ In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:6-7, he said ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.’

It can often feel like God’s peace is elusive in our busy and chaotic lives. Conflict arises in relationships and sometimes it can be a matter of opinion where there’s no clear way to discern who is right or wrong. In a recent sermon at my church, we were asked to consider the following question: Is the issue or the relationship more important? The Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:18 ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with one another.’ Conflict is inevitable and my prayer for you is that you’ll live in peace and follow God’s will for your life.


  1. The Malcolm Fraser quote is wonderful!
    Whenever my family would ask at the dinner table "How's your writing going, Mom?"
    If I replied "Slow."
    My daughter would remind me, "You don't have enough conflict, Mama."
    She knew me well. Now they're all grown up and I have to remind myself.

  2. Many thanks for your thought provoking devotion, Narelle.

    You mention Philippians 4:6-7- these verses have helped me so often in hard times.

    Donna, I love your daughter's comment

  3. It seems I have spent my entire life trying to avoid, mitigate or resolve conflict in one form or another. Thank you for your insights.

  4. Well thought out and written post, Narelle. With all the riots overseas right now, you thoughts on "conflict" and "peace" are so very timely!

  5. Thank you for this, Narelle. I love dreaming up difficult situations for my characters, but I never like to let them get hurt. I love them too much. Hmm. Maybe I need to work on that.

    I sure get hurt plenty in life, and that's what makes the love of God so amazing. That would apply in my writing too.