Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Conflicts for Emily
There is no story without conflict. It doesn't have to be as gigantic and menacing as Moby Dick, or anything as terrifyingly evil as the creature in Alien, but there is no story without a problem. If everything is perfect in the characters' lives, what's the point of reading about them? Each of us has too many books waiting on the bedside table to waste our time wading through boring books. A successful Hollywood screenwriter (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, speaking of conflicts!) once told me that writers have to earn their readers' loyalty with each word we write. In my novel, Good Fridays, Emily Carmichael's life is dominated by her mother. Young Emily can accept the fact that she has strict nuns for her teachers, and she can handle the disappointment of having to be somber when her birthday (March 30th) falls around Good Friday, but her mother is a major source of fear, anger and frustration in Emily's life. Emily's father has learned to let his wife be the boss because he realized a long time ago that when she's happy, then everyone else can be happy. Seeing her father resigned to such a life saddens Emily, but she has no idea how to cope with the years of unfair treatment inflicted on her by her mother. When Emily protests her mother's unfairness, her mother flies into a rage, yet when Emily complies, her mother abruptly twists the truth, confusing the issues and angering and frustrating Emily. Her mother controls every aspect of Emily's young life, from selecting the clothing she wears to which boys she's allowed to socialize with. When the older Emily falls in love with Oliver Wells, the man she wants to marry, her mother rejects him before even meeting him. When Emily and Oliver's daughter is born, Emily is so deeply depressed (because of the recent heart-breaking events in her life) that she submits to her mother's demand that she give up baby Olivia for adoption. Emily's mother had rejected Oliver and because Emily had gone against her mother's orders and married Oliver, the baby was also rejected by Emily's mother. This is the major conflict in Good Fridays that sets in motion the story of Emily, Vicki and Sara. Next time, I'll discuss the conflicts between Vicki and her daughter, Sara.