Seeing stories in things far from us

By Mathias Anyanwu. Mathias, 20, is a student at the University of Nigeria and currently resides in Enugu, Nigeria. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Whenever I make the rendition of reality within me visible through the pen, only two people seem to exist: me and the reader. I write with the reader chained in my mind, and the reader would want to read my story because of reasons depending on his relationship with stories. Why am I a writer? The answer could be because I have the passion for it, or perhaps for reasons associated with fame or title; maybe because I deem it the most profitable medium to express myself. Whatever the answer is doesn’t matter, because whatever motivates me to write is good, and will always be good as long as it fuels my passion to write. Currently, I am planning to write a story titled “spotlight”. The next question to ask is why I have chosen the particular themes and structure for my story. The reason could be to express my understanding about that particular theme, or to narrate my experience or that of another person, or maybe to exploit the predictable behaviours of readers and write what they are inclined to buy. It could be any other reason. The reasons that prompted me to choose a particular theme or structure for my story are very important, because they are the core ingredients necessary for refining the world created within my mind and for presenting that world, which will form an invisible connection between me and the reader and lead to reflection within the reader. Also, the world created within my mind is beautiful, but that it is beautiful within my mind doesn’t guarantee that it will be so in reality. An idea can be awesome in the mind, but there is a required price you must pay to bring your idea, along with its perfection, to reality. It is a price that must be paid with determination. Hence, the next question to ask is how can I communicate such greatness in my mind to the reader? The answer is systematic arrangement, but systematic arrangement won’t be enough for my short story “spotlight”. I need to trap the reader to make him complete the journey of my story. How do I do that? The quick and obvious answer is conflict. My short story ought to be spiced with conflicts, because without it, I am communicating to no man.

My short story titled “spotlight” will be rife with conflicts because it is a story that involves characters who are men, and I can’t write or say anything about man without bringing along his intrinsic nature. Anything that involves man or tries to imitate man cannot be devoid of conflict. There will be conflict in all spheres of life as long as absolute perfection remains unattainable. Man battles with himself, his fellow man, and his environment. This conflict is because he has limited knowledge about these things, and there is no limit to the understanding of self, society, and nature. Conflict arises as a result of the confidence man has in his limited knowledge, and when he applies that limited knowledge to a contrary principle, conflict ensues. Going through that conflict and realizing the impotency of our limited knowledge results in increased understanding. Man as a being has multifaceted aspects of his life. Tendering and maintaining those aspects of his life becomes a personal purpose along with his ontological purpose. The multifaceted aspects of his life includes his personal life (health, moral, career, relationship, religious life), family, and inter-personal relationships. These aspects of his life are not without conflicts. Hence, he strives to grow in everyone of them because he knows that neglecting one aspect of life will leave the others prone to the doom of that one aspect that has fallen. I can’t just jump to the happy ending in “spotlight”. I am not trying to give a testimony, and even if it were a testimony, people would want to know what happened. A story must a have beginning and an end, and the journey from the beginning to the end cannot be without conflict, as long as it involves man or his attributes.

In the future, after I have published “spotlight”, I might decide to express the lessons from an experience (non-fiction), create an imaginary world (fiction), or leave the past and the contemporary behind (science fiction). Whichever genre I may decide to write within, all the important ingredients will be drawn from reality, and the only reality that I know is the one inhabited by man. Mental recreation and time travel stories have their foundation in present reality. Since this reality is inhabited by man, I can’t evade applying conflicts in my fictions and science fictions. The reader and I are both part of this world, and we are both influenced by its conflicts and circumstances; due to the fact that time won’t carry us all along together, however, I got an increased understanding which I can express in the form of fiction, non-fiction, or science fiction. For instance, I might decide to write a novel about “LOVE”. Why would I write a novel about love when millions of novels have said something about love already? This is not because I am unaware of the fact that this theme has been written, but because I have special experience, or an increased understanding of what love is. What about the reader? Why would he bother to read a new novel concerning love after reading so many other novels themed love? This is because he is still exploring on the concept of love, and he wants to hear what this new author has to say. Repeating themes and stories is because new forms of conflicts arise in different aspects of life, and as long we continue to explore life, our life will be characterized by conflicts.

Conflict is actually the real energy in a story. The duty of conflict is just to keep us trapped in the story. When two people are fighting, the punches and smacks keep people watching, but that’s not what people are really interested in in the fight. They are interested in knowing what comes out of it. The same goes for stories. Conflict keeps us flipping the pages, but the main thing readers are watching out for is discovery. Discovery is the main phase in a story, and prompts questions like, “How was the problem solved?”, or “Why is it solved this way?” Conflicts in stories are what we see every day in our lives, and stories carry hidden approaches to these conflicts. People are always seeking new ways of resolution as the available ways are never enough. Hence, a story is not only about the conflict because it also involves discovery. Stories carry the heart of authors, and the hearts of authors rest in different places. Hence, they give different insights to life and creativity. If the whole body of a story tries to facilitate the discovery of something, then a story does not have to include conflict to be termed “story”.

However, I still do not agree with Veronica Roth’s “if there are no conflicts, there are no stories worth telling or reading.” The above explanations is not to prove that a story without conflicts is not worth reading, but to convince the fact that stories with conflicts are stories that involves man, his surrounding, his traits, and his attributes. Anything with an attribute of man cannot make sense if there is no conflict in it. It has become so conventional that a fascinating story cannot exist without conflict. However, there is a problem with conventionality or general belief, and the problem is that conventionality tends to blur possibilities and forestall transformation. For a story without conflict to be deemed worth reading, it must be devoid of any setting of man. Most definitions of a story will agree with me that a story is a series of events. It is not about events concerning man only, but also events far from us or far from our traits. There can be stories without conflicts that are worth reading. Let us go far enough from ourselves and we will find it. Stories without conflicts are what free us from the earth for a while, and nourish us with the hope of a better future. The sources of stories without conflicts are in dynamic things that have no strife in the process of perfection, unlike the dynamic man that encounters conflict in every step of perfection. Stories can be gotten from these things in their process of perfection, and how they perfect themselves. They are stories that console us and heal our broken hearts. To write a story without conflict, one must find an entity that has no strife in its perfection, and reveal the compelling secret that hides in the process of perfecting itself. With this, you will get a story without conflict.

5 comments on “Seeing stories in things far from us

  1. Samuel Uche on

    Nice piece from Anyanwu!
    It’s true you can write a story without conflict, will it be interesting? Not long enough! Conflict helps to drive the plot and shape your characters arc. Something has to drive the exposition.


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