What's the Problem?
You might try to avoid conflict in your life, but if you’re a writer conflict is essential to your story. Without it you’ve got nothing. Blah. Zilch. Nada. The nice part about conflict is there’s so much of it about that you needn’t look to far afield to find some you can use.
Last month I journeyed way north, so far north that I managed to dip my fingers into the Arctic Ocean. That got me thinking about setting and that naturally led to conflict.
Driving from central Idaho to Prudhoe Bay is a journey of more than 3,500 miles and with each degree of latitude ticked off, the country grows wilder and less civilized. That’s a good thing to my way of thinking. Conflicts abound throughout the civilized or semi-civilized world, but once you get to meet nature in the raw, so to speak, conflicts become more elemental in both senses of the word. They’re more basic and they tend to involve the elements.
Back to Basics
Two basic conflicts come to mind here in the Arctic: Man vs. Man – although today that would also read Woman vs. Woman - and Man or Woman vs. Nature. Jack London used the latter conflict in the short story “The Call of the Wild” but the former intrigues with possibilities galore. Here’s just one.
The Pipeline snakes its way from Prudhoe Bay all the way to Valdez, from coast to coast and bisecting the entire state of Alaska. Why? To feed the nation’s appetite for gasoline and other marvels of petrochemical science is the obvious answer. But the conflicts underlying this massive undertaking present a rich resource for the historical novelist.
I’m going to come up with a list of ten possible conflicts that could become possible story options. I’ll post these next time. In the meantime, why not come up with your own list and we'll see how they compare.