That’s three books in a row I have had to abandon because of conflict poisoning! Conflict poisoning is what happens when the writer buys in to the idea that drama is only created by conflict. When you have “drama is conflict” in your head when you write, all of your scenes become arguments or fights. Characters attack each other for no reason other than — there has to be conflict to create drama! So you’re reading this fascinating book, with a great story, and the characters keep picking on each other out of the blue. The fictional world turns into Fight Club for no discernible reason. Wading through the miserable, nasty interactions undermines the pleasure of the book, and I give up.
The fact is, drama is not created by conflict, it is created by tension. There are an infinite number of ways to create tension in a plot, and in a scene, and between characters. Conflict is only a tiny subset of all the ways to create tension. Romantic tension, sexual tension. the tension created by power relationships, the tension of overwhelming odds, of unbearable burdens, of difficult undertakings — these do not need to be underscored by constant carping, nasty backstabbing, and pointless verbal or physical fights, to make a story more interesting.
Imagine Jane Austen’s works if she were suffering from conflict poisoning. Would any principal’s face be left unslapped?
Conflict poisoning is undermining our dramatic literature, and now it’s in the books, as well. Promote conflict poisoning awareness, and win back our literature!