Friends & family

Sometimes our relationship conflicts don't come from predators, competitors, and nemeses—but from our own friends and family.

We've seen one example already with Naila and her parents in conflict over her relationship with her boyfriend.

Here's another example, in an account from Kids of Kabul:

My mother has no job, so we are very poor. My oldest brother is in charge of us. He is the one who said I should not go to school, so that is why I spent so many years not knowing how to read. I don't know why he said no school for me. Does he have to give a reason? Maybe he doesn't think I am smart enough for school. Maybe he is afraid I would end up smarter than him, and then how would he be able to tell me what to do? The women in this class have all been through bad times in the war. I was very small when the war ended but I hear everyone talk about it.

You might notice that family and friend conflicts tend to be less about competition and survival, and more about values, behaviour, and control.

Here's an example in the zombie story of a conflict between the kids over safety and security:

Over time, the kids split into two equal but opposing sides. Cindy and Amos wanted to stay in Kowloon. They thought the mainland was safer, and it felt like there was somewhere you could run if you had to. Expert and Vincent wanted to cross the harbour to the island. They thought it was safer because at least the zombies were more contained, and the vegetation meant maybe they could grow food. Cindy and Amos argued that if you went through the tunnel you'd probably get trapped in the dark and eaten. Expert and Vincent said there was a junk moored on the other side of Tsim Sha Tsui that they could use to sail across. Cindy and Amos said Expert and Vincent were crazy, and they were going to get everyone killed. Meanwhile there was a cannibal running around downstairs, stressing everyone out.

Whereas here's an example in the taxidermy story of a conflict over relationships, family, and career:

My dad learned taxidermy from his dad, and I think he assumed he would pass on to me his wisdom, and I would love it the way that he loved it, and we'd stay together in this shoebox stuffing hides and I don't know, I'd get married and somehow my husband would get roped into it, a regular family dynasty. What he specifically did not want was a gay daughter who wanted to move to Austin to do musical theater with her girlfriend. I don't know what made him more upset, the gayness, the theater, or Austin.

  • Think about something your protagonist wants or values.
  • Imagine how a family member or friend might want or value the opposite.
  • Write a short description of what each side wants and values and the conflict that results.
Describe a relationship in which contrasting values or goals put friends or family into conflict.

Whether the conflict is with nemeses, strangers, friends, or family, at least you can boil it down to one or a handful of people.

What happens when the whole world is hostile?