"With writing internal conflict," says tutor Marija Peričić, "observing myself, others and the world, either through reading, or just through life, and reflecting upon that is a very important source of inspiration for me." Ahead of her upcoming workshop, we talked to Marija about how to plan and write compelling conflict.
Participants in your upcoming workshop will learn how to write compelling internal conflict – do you draw your inspiration for writing internal conflict from your own experiences?
Absolutely! As with most writers, my writing and my characters are all really based on my own experiences, and/or an extension of a version of myself. Particularly with writing internal conflict, observing myself, others and the world, either through reading, or just through life, and reflecting upon that is a very important source of inspiration for me.
You had attempted to plan several novels before you wrote ‘The Lost Pages’ – what was it about this story that took you further than your previous ideas had?
I think it really was quite a combination of factors. Firstly, I found it very helpful to be setting a novel in a different place and time, one that I had very little if any first-hand knowledge about. I think this gave me the necessary distance when writing the place that made it easier for me to see it from the outside. I also found it easier to work within the restriction of particular historical characters. My earlier plans had had much vaguer settings, which made the writing harder to direct.
With The Lost Pages I also had from the very beginning a very clear idea of the general shape of the story. But that said, I still worked through a number of different plans, with completely different characters and points of view than those that were in the finished work.
How important is the planning process when writing conflict? Do you find a piece needs to be well-planned in order to have a satisfying resolution?
For me, the planning process in writing is hugely important, particularly when writing conflict, or indeed anything else. I go through quite a fixed process of planning, then drafting and then editing and redrafting. Everyone has a different writing process of course, and it’s a question of finding one’s own way of working, but I find that without the planning stage I can lose control of the characters at the prose-writing drafting stage, which can lead to a less satisfying story, and ultimately, more painful editing and redrafting process.
I prefer to shape the arc of a story in the planning stage, as it’s easier for me to keep a clear overview of the characters’ trajectories in mind. I think it’s certainly possible to have an un-planned but satisfying resolution, but I think in many cases the work that might be done in the planning stage just gets deferred to the editing stage instead.
When writing ‘The Lost Pages’, did you find it challenging to reimagine the relationship between two historical figures, or did you find enough material in your research to make the development of the conflict flow easily?
When writing The Lost Pages, I took huge liberties with the figures of Max Brod and Franz Kafka. I really made an effort to make the characters my own, rather than to attempt to present historically accurate versions of the figures. I deliberately worked from very few historical details about the two men, so the relationship between them and the conflict in the novel is, as far as I know, entirely imaginary.
The conflict in the novel is based on my interpretation of Max’s character. When writing Max, I first considered what his personality might be like, and after I had established Max’s character, the conflict did seem to flow easily, as it is all motivated by Max’s personality: his feelings of jealousy, defectiveness and insecurity in relation to Kafka.
Are there any writers or books you can recommend that you think provide good examples of well-written conflict?
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina includes so many different types of conflict, given from many different characters’ points of view. Otessa Moshfegh’s Eileen is a fantastic literary version of a traditional thriller, and Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment gives an unflinching account of conflict in a domestic relationship, and the internal conflict that stems from that.
About Marija Pericic
Marija Peričić is a writer based in Melbourne. Her first novel, 'The Lost Pages', won The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award 2017. Her work has also appeared in 'Going Down Swinging' and the 'Southerly' blog. Marija was born in Perth, Western Australia. She studied English Literature at The University of Western Australia and The University of Melbourne and teaches English Language at Deakin University.
About Amy Adeney
Amy Adeney is a Writers Victoria intern. She is a primary teacher and founder of Busy Bookworms, a bookclub for preschoolers.