Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

Sounds like the makings of a decent novel to me...

From Chaucer to Shakespeare, and on through the ages, sex and death have been at the centre of all the great stories. History is the same. They are what motivate us. They are the stuff of legends. They are the things that alter the status quo, that shift the balance, that rock the boat and the cradle.

It’s all about conflict, isn’t it?  The strongest males get to fight over the right to tup the most desirable females. Crude, perhaps, but, in some ways, still true, and, what’s more, we are born to it... We are born into conflict.

Ask any mother of small children and she will tell you that they bicker. Ask any mother of teenagers and she will tell you that a decade later they are still bickering. Ask any adult with siblings and he will tell you that the bickering never really goes away.

My  mother used to ask us, and there are five of us, ‘If you lot are brothers and sisters and you can’t get on, how are nations supposed to?’

The point is, we’re not supposed to. We’re not supposed to share. Altruism doesn’t pay. Competition is good. We still indulge our need for gladiatorial battle on the floor of the stock exchange and in the olympic arena. We still compete in the record charts, in the bestseller lists and at the box offices. We still climb the corporate ladder, run in elections and take part in any number of popularity contests from beauty pageants to televised talent shows.

It’s not all good. It’s not all healthy. It’s not all desirable. No one wants war, conflict, death and mayhem in the real World, but all of our lives are bound to be coloured by inevitable bouts of competition, whether its who got the bigger slice of cake or the better grade, or who earns more or has the hotter girlfriend, or, heaven forbid, who has the cleverer or cuter kid.

The World is not a pretty place, and the sooner we realise it, the happier we will be, especially those of us who write, because that’s one area in which we can begin to exploit our talents.

Stories can really be driven by conflict. It might be the smallest misunderstanding between two characters, or growing animosity between families or tribes; it might be political conflict between nations or it might be all out cosmic war between good and evil, but whatever scale you choose, conflict works.

Think about it.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes’s attempted assassination of James I. The story is more than 400 years old, and the assassination failed, and yet we still remember and we still celebrate the event... A little conflict really can go a very, very long way.

1 comment:

  1. Talking of altruism, the best quote I've ever come across on the subject is this:

    "Altruism - we get it from our kids."