Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Two Shades of Good

Conflict is not always between good and evil. Sometimes the most gripping or poignant conflict is between people who both think they are doing the right thing. Keep in mind that a lot of villains believe they are doing the right thing. Very few of them believe themselves to be evil. They get downright confrontational if anyone suggests they are doing evil. This does not include the masses of selfish users and takers who flaunt the law simply because they do not think it applies to them or plain do not care if it does, until they end up incarcerated. No, this is about the evil masterminds, when they're not delusional or caricature take over the world types, who want to mould the world into the vision they have for it. This is about the despots, the mafia don, the cult leader, and the countless others who are not introspective enough to see the harm they inflict.

To reiterate, and it may be a matter of opinion--it certainly isn't something to be overused without cause and enough originality--the most exciting conflict, with great impact and resonance is between two forces for good. Some of the excitement is in-built just because it's different. Some of it is because it's harder to decided for which side to root. There is also the matter that the cost and results are different depending on which side is victorious. The audience--been a while since it was said but the audience could be readers of your short story, novel, comic book, or role-playing game or your video, movie, TV show audience--will pick a side and a significant number of them will decry the other side as being in the wrong, if they don't go so far as to equate them with villains. This is true even if there is a three-way conflict including a definite evil person or group.

The three-way conflict gives the most flexibility in crafting a sinuous, whether that is convoluted or not, plot. The sides can play off of each other, go for outright manipulation of each other, and generally get in the way so much that not a one of them can reach their goal. The potential to derail all of their plans could lead to a disaster that none of them wants to see. This in turn will cause one or more sides to reverse course to some degree, switch sides, or pull out--this will be common among the villains who can just try again later or do without that particular victory. The dynamics of the conflict can change dramatically, turning heroes into villains, and turning expectations entirely on their head. The best thing to do in creating one of these conflicts is to make it so that there is a painful decision/aspect to one of the good sides confronting the other good side.

Mood: scrupulous.
Music: Peace Sells by Megadeth and Distant Skies by Stratovarius.

Megadeth: Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
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Stratovarius: Fourth Dimension
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