The Battle Of Conflict - My Writers' Group's Take On Story

Posted at 11:21am on 23rd October 2019


The main focus of our meeting this morning - midst laughter and chat - was the final construction and distribution of the booklet we have put together as a group. Titled Battle, and told in narrative, poetic and comic form, the theme confronts some of the battles we might face at various times of life. All production costs have been borne by the group, and all proceeds from sales are for the charity, CHIPS - Christian International Peace Service. If this sells well, we should raise a few hundred pounds to aid them in their good work.


We then discussed an interesting subject which had been brought to light by one of our members, Gill, and which I had further researched. What we learned was fascinating. While Western storylines are based on an arc of conflict which show a beginning, middle and end eg: i) the exposition and rising tension of a divergence or struggle in life, ii) the climax, and iii) the fall of tension until resolution or denouement is reached, Oriental narratives are quite different.

Conflict, in stories from East Asia, is a no-no. Using a format known as Kishotenketsu, it comprises a four part structure. i) Ki - the introduction of the who, what, when, where, why, ii) Sho - the development of the plot, where little changes, iii) Ten - the twist - which can often be a non-sequitur, and finally iv) Ketsu - the conclusion - whereby the as yet unrelated ideas of what went before are brought together for comparison.


I have to say that I am not a lover of thrillers, murder mysteries, and genres that portray violence. Using two of the books I was commissioned to write for Hodder & Stoughton as examples, I was able to demonstrate that conflict can be seen in other ways. In my book, Healed Within, the conflict is whether a young woman who, diagnosed with a brain tumour becomes a quadriplegic, and whose marriage ends as a result, can ever be healed? As the title reveals, it is an inner healing that Susan experiences as a result of coming to faith in God. The other, The Last Mountain, told the controversial story of contaminated bloods leading to HIV and AIDS for many haemophiliacs, a conflict if ever there was one.

The thing is, we in the West will almost certainly have been brought up on stories in which conflict is portrayed, albeit in a gentler fashion. Take Cinderella, for example, where a form of emotional and mental struggle is introduced when the youngest sister, an underdog as far as her siblings are concerned, is unable to go to the ball laid on at the palace. Resolution may appear to come about when the Fairy Godmother arrives, clothes our main character in a ball gown, and sends her off to the party. This, however, only adds to the tension that creates the climax, when, having developed a mutual fondness with the Prince, Cinderella recalls that at midnight she will once more be the loser, robbed of her beautiful gown, and clearly no more than a scullery maid. Denouement, as we all know, comes when the Prince, having found her discarded slipper, tracks her down and declares his love for her.


Compare this with the Oriental passage of story. In a series of sketches, one writer reveals a young girl (the who) standing before a soda-dispensing machine (where) and inserting a coin (what). This is Ki, Act One. The second sketch shows the girl crouching before the machine and grabbing the drink from the opening at the bottom. This, Sho, or Act Two, continues the story but with little change to circumstances. Ten, Act Three, homes in on a boy, sitting alone, staring into the distance - a section of the story that appears to show no relevance whatever to the first two acts i.e. a non-sequitur. In the final scene, Ketsu, or Act Four, all three of the previous parts are brought to a conclusion, when the girl presents the boy with the drink she has purchased, and he acknowledges her offering.

Whether or not he has been in need of the drink is, I assume, left to the reader to decide. Had he had a fall and was in need of hydration? Is the girl simply being kind to a stranger? Or does she have a hidden agenda, perhaps wanting to befriend him. Who knows?

It is doubtful, we concluded, that this style of story would go down well with either Western publishers or readers. Nevertheless, we plan to experiment in the future.


Meanwhile, midst much excitement, we were then treated to the first sighting of Gill's newly published book, Deacon by Design. A Deacon, herself, she tells the story of how she - and many others - have gladly obeyed God's calling to this ministry, while yet others have declared it, destructively, as a mere stepping stone to priesthood. Well done, Gill. We wish you every success.

Your Comments:

24th October 2019
at 1:35am
Thank you, Merry - a superb resume of our discussion yesterday, which was fascinating, especially with Suzy's contribution from what is her specialist subject in terms of different cultures treating stories in different ways.

And thank you so much for the plug for my book!

Hope you're feeling better today.

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