I love the way he approaches story conflict - that it is really just tension at its core. Mentally, I feel much more comfortable with my ability to create tension than with my mastery of conflict. Is there a major difference? No. Does it feel like there is to me? Yes. And that is enough. The idea of creating "tension" instead of "conflict" makes me feel lighter, more capable. For additional examples, see Chapter 9 of What a Writer Needs.
I prefer "tension" to "conflict" because the term seems more inclusive. It would be hard to define a clear conflict in Cynthia Rylant's The Relatives Came. Yet there is a kind of tension that slowly builds as the story progresses: the pull of home. The relatives keep thinking of their grapes, back home, nearly purple enough to eat. That insistent tugging of home, the fact that the relatives cannot stay forever but must finally go back to their own beds several states away, lends a poignancy to the book. The reader feels a gentle sadness as the relatives drive away.
Tension might be thought of as resistance. Some writers create this resistance through language, in the writing itself, through the voice in which the piece gets written.
What do you think - conflict or tension?
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