In every group, even in the best of friends, the nature of group dynamics spell conflict, however severe. It does not take much to stir the conflict either; just a prick here, or a dig there. It is important to maximize and exaggerate it as much as possible for the full effect, but how?
Macro problems (the big picture) are great when everyone is working together, but the core issues stem from the micro levels. The interconnected and interwoven problems each person has with one another. There needs to be friction, bubbling under the surface; old wounds that have scabbed, but not fully healed.
No matter how much you think you have it all figured out; how much you’ve tried to move on, forgive the next person, reunite and every thing is all fine and dandy. Old wounds die hard. If they ever do. I’m of the school of thought that, old wounds never truly die. They are simply buried but never truly forgotten. The longer the offending party continues on the path of redemption, the more the hatchet is buried, but the moment they slip? Woe be on to them! For the dirt is slowly blown over, and the more they continue to push, the more the layers peel away.
This usually occurs when the offender has slipped into old tendencies, but, if they should do the very thing that upset the other person in the first place, it would be as if a hurricane had come with a tornado and brought that hatchet up so quick your head spins.
Same with characters. Have each character hurt another character at some point (or multiple characters if possible). Let them move on but slowly reveal that all isn’t swept under the rug.
Even in the tightest groups, there are bound to be sub-groups. Think of your group of friends. There may be as little as three of you but two of you may be inevitably closer than you are to other or vice versa. There is nothing wrong with this, but as with human nature, jealousies and insecurities have a tendency to show up.
Have your character feel left out of the sub group. Let the resentment fester for a period of time before it comes to a head.
If there are cliques, there bound to be secrets. Each person harbors resentment against another person that may lead them to commit acts or talk about them behind their back. Perhaps one character had a secret affair with another’s husband. How would this inform their behavior?
Perhaps one character knows dirt on every other character and manipulates it for their own advantage. Think how each character would act with such information and how their knowledge slowly seeps through the cracks.
THE BLOW UP
With tiny fires burning, there will eventually come a breaking point. The best blow ups occur when there was relative calm prior. It is often the smallest thing; the tiniest infraction that escalates beyond repair and the next thing, absolute mayhem ensues.
Be sure each of your characters vent about the current “problem” before even addressing any underlying issues. This mimics human tendencies. People will argue about the fact that they went to garden and now their toe is green without ever addressing the fact they didn’t like the outdoors in the first place. Do the same with your characters.
Although the blow up is exhilarating for your reader, never forget the lasting impact it will undeniably have on your characters. Friendships may be broken, loyalties tested and severed. Especially if the characters were close, this will impact them psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and even physically.
To ignore the lasting impacts, is to deny your character their humanity. Even if they appear happy in one chapter, be sure to include telling signs of their distress.
Picking Up the Pieces
One of the biggest mistakes an author can make is reuniting a group of characters and expect (if not force) them to all get back where they once were. It reads as false. No one who has ever argued (over something major) under the sun has ever just meshed back together.
There have been awkward silences, awkward stares and forced smiles. There is usually some tension that needs to be broken before healing can begin.
Also, be very careful that you do not make their relationship dynamics return to what it was pre-blow up. Friendships should be stronger due to the conflict, but do not make it stay the same.
Well that’s all I have for you folks! Shout out to Andrea who requested this topic. Be sure to check out my other post concerning conflict here. Hope you enjoyed! Until next time G-NATION, GENESYS OUT!