You don’t need a villain to create conflict.
I read this today and thought, wow, interesting statement. It’s true in that good people can create conflict among themselves.
But here’s my opinion. You don’t need a villain to create conflict, but sometimes that’s only because there isn’t a flesh and blood villain. Some villains don’t come in the shape or form of a man twirling his moustache, or Joker, or Poison Ivy (I was watching Gotham last night…so yeah).
But the villain is still there, an abstract idea or belief, an opinion or judgment that stirs the air and prevents the main characters from moving forward in accomplishing the task at hand…such as falling in love.
In many a love story, the conflict between the hero and the heroine stems from conflicting goals or morals. Falling in love isn’t easy. It’s frustrating and messy and involves other people, other factors, despite how some may feel love should only involve the couple and nobody else. Nothing else.
And guess what. These conflicts are not fiction. They happen in real life. I think that’s why I, and millions of other readers, love to read about them.
To name a few conflicts off the top of my head: Being from two different worlds, the need to find oneself first before falling in love, misunderstandings driving wedges between the characters, allowing past hurts to get in the way of finding love again, allowing other voices to drown out one’s own heart.
I remember crying my eyes out in the first few pages of Ms. Austen’s novel, when Anne Elliott is persuaded not to marry the love of her life just because he’s poor. Persuaded by family and friends, outside influences instead of her own heart.
I remember bawling when Jane still cannot deny her love for Mr. Rochester, despite his having deceived her. (I also remember years later, cracking up at my best friend for crying over this during the movie—I already knew it was coming—and yes, I know that was mean of me). Anyway, he does something so despicable, and yet she continues, despite herself, to love someone who seems all sorts of wrong. He’s a complete asshole, and she knows it, yet she can’t stop loving him. Loving and hating him. Loving and hating herself. An internal battle between her moral integrity and her desires. (No, I do not believe the lady in the attic is the villain. Ever read Wide Sargasso Sea? Yeah…poor woman)
I remember actually yelling out loud at Anne Shirley when she refuses Gilbert Blythe’s proposal of marriage simply because he is not the picture of her ideal man. An internal conflict again. Not knowing herself, seeking to find who she truly is, what she truly wants, what love truly is–this is why it takes so long for them to be together. I screamed at her while reading the rest of Anne of the Island.
One of my favorite romance novel series, by my favorite romance author, Lisa Kleypas, features four wallflowers in the Victorian era (wallflowers…no idea why I liked it so much 😉 ). The first book is centered on an impoverished aristocratic woman and a wealthy entrepreneurial man who also happens to be the son of a butcher. http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Summer-Night-Wallflowers-Book/dp/0060091290
I remember devouring this novel one spring night before my biochem final during my junior year of college, and then re-reading it three times right after. (Was it biochem or embryology…or physiology? I don’t remember that at all, haha)
In the aforementioned examples, there is nothing physical stopping these couples from being together. What is in their way is the idea that they might end up making the wrong choice in being together, that they might screw things up forever, suffer disgrace or irreparable damage. And so they must overcome those thoughts, those second guesses, in order to fall in love.