Characterization Through the Christmas Story – Conflict

Just as the pulse of a good story is founded in conflict, so is the core of a character. Conflict energizes our scenes and draws readers into the emotional suspense of our heroine and hero’s lives.

Boy and girl can meet, but unless something happens to shake the foundations of that new relationship, then the story ends rather quickly and without much interest.

With characters, as with ‘real’ people, the basis of who we are blooms in conflict. How we respond to the bumps and bruises of life, in lots of ways shows the attitude of our hearts.

One of the things many authors do to refine a character is place him in ‘hot water’ and see how he reacts to it. Is he patient? Inventive? Afraid? Indecisive? All of those reactions tell us a truth about that character.

Place him in an embarrassing situation. What does he do? Laugh at himself? Retreat? Blame? Flare out at another? (Btw, a friend once said that the best way to test the quality of a man is to see how he reacted when he was angry and embarrassed. That would tell you more than about anything else. Interesting thought, isn’t it?”

 Well, The Christmas Story is no exception to Conflict. How our characters respond to conflict tells us a lot about the core of who they are. Unlike our fictional creations in our stories, Mary and Joseph had a real-life dilemma.

Joseph’s response  to Mary’s news tells us a whole lot about him.

Here he was: a bridegroom on the verge of marrying his sweetheart. Getting a house ready, preparing his land, joking with his friends about the end of bachelorhood – and suddenly, he finds out that his beautiful, supposedly-faithful wife-to-be is expecting a child.

And HE is not the father. Conflict

So, what does he do?

Well he could report her to the authorities and have her stoned to death.

But no, despite the hurt and anger he must have been feeling, the Bible says he meant to end things quietly, inconspicuously. Out of respect for her? Her family? Love?

Then he has an amazing dream. An angel tells him to do the unthinkable: Take Mary as his wife, even though she’s carrying someone else’s child. But not just anyone’s. God’s. Whoa. Conflict

 THEN, the two get married and head on the long journey to Bethlehem where there is NO ROOM in the inn and Mary’s getting ready to give birth on the streets of the little town. Conflict

 A stable. Some shepherds. A star. God’s glory in human form.

Then Joseph has another dream. King Herod is jealous and he’s killing all the baby boys under the age of 2. Major Conflict.

Just within this short narrative, do you see how much conflict plays a part in developing characters as well as story.

Conflict develops something in us too.

 Bible tip for the Day:

James 1:1-5

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

God started writing our stories before we were even born and the trials he brings into our lives are meant for our refinement. If we trust Him as a loving Father, we can take the difficulties in life, as well as the joys, with hope in his unfailing, faithful love.

Writing Quote for Today:

The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict and conflict.
James Frey

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