Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is it Red or Is it Blue?...Basing Conflict on POV

My husband and I are in the middle of fixing up our house...painting, re-flooring, taking out a wall here or there.  And as a finishing touch in one of the rooms, we needed to dig out a long-stored Turkish rug that neither one of us had seen in years.  I was trying to communicate to him which one I wanted in front of the new door...

"You know, the blue one.  It will fit perfectly here."
"I don't remember a blue one," he said.  "What about the red one?"
"Red?  What red carpet?  We don't have a red one.  But I'm sure the blue one will work great."
"No, the red will be better.  Hold on, let me go find it and show you."

Can you tell where this is going?  Can you spot the ending a mile off?

So, my dear husband returns with the exact BLUE rug I'd been talking about in his hands.
"See," he said.  "Red."  He pointed to the geometrical and floral designs woven in red.
"No, look," I pointed to the border and background throughout surrounding the design.  "It's blue.  There's more blue than red."

Blue rug / red rug.  Blue states / red states.  Blue character POV / red character POV.

My husband remembered the design.  I remembered the background.  My husband tends to focus on aesthetics, whereas I tend to focus on function.

To me, this simple dialogue demonstrated so clearly to me a simple difference between me and my husband.  Because of our background and cultural differences, we have a different way of viewing the world.  And quite often, as with the rug, the way we see things, while different, is not...wrong.  (Though shhhh, don't tell him I said so).

In life, real conflict between people is rarely simple or easily solved.  Quite often, true differences in opinion stem from a deeply based belief system that is neither right nor wrong, just different.

Well-developed characters have strong POVs.  These POVs should be informed by their cultures, their personal history, their beliefs, their backstory.  And to create an intense read, your characters' POVs should conflict with each other in a way not easily solved.

How much more interesting will it be to your reader if you build up a complex conflict between characters that has no clear good guy or bad guy but rather a deeply differing level of seeing and understanding their world?

So, you tell me -- is the rug red or is it blue?