Pollyanna syndrome – or why conflict avoidance isn’t good for the writing


Girl Holding Books IllustrationOne of the great things about going to a writing conference such as the Romance Writers of Australia Conference I attended on the weekend is that you get to go to some really wonderful workshops.

You have the opportunity to look at the craft of writing and how you structure your writing, your time and stories. A bit like choosing from a menu sometimes after you’ve chosen you reflect and wish you’d ordered the chicken and not the steak. At this conference for the first time ever I think, every workshop I went to was spot on for me and wheere I’m at right now. I did indeed order correctly! (If I could only apply the same strategy in choosing the right check-out at the supermarket my life would be almost perfect.)

So since Saturday when I went to my first workshop I’ve been thinking hard about books I’ve written and books that need editing and revisions and how I can apply all that I gleaned to my writing.

Somehow, despite there not being a workshop on this topic I decided one of my biggest issues is my Pollyanna complex. In real life I just honestly want everyone to be happy. It’s not a platitude and it’s not that I’m an especially optimistic person. In fact I think part of it is pure selfishness, other people’s misery and sadness seeps into my life and makes me sad.

I hate conflict and avoid it at all costs. When tensions rise I try and smooth them over. If there are people in my life who upset me it’s a rare thing that I will discuss it with them…it’s just not my style. If you’ve met me, you probably know this about me already.

So what does that have to do with writing? Well when you write a story you need conflict. You need obstacles and secrets and drama and tragedy or it’s not much of a story.

They all lived happily ever after is a pretty short novel…

Some people I know say characters who are too happy and too nice are unrealistic but in reality I know lots of happy, kind, well adjusted people who are funny and also have interesting stories to tell. In fact some of the least tortured people I know have the best stories because they embrace life and opportunity and take on challenges with enthusiasm. The truth is stranger than fiction, as they say.

Because I like my characters I find it painful to put them in painful situations. Some writers love this…I’m sure you could name many…but it goes against my nature, I suppose.

So now it’s time to get over that in the name of writing. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem…I’ll try to be less nice to my characters…


Annette Bower
8/21/2012 02:56:11 am

I agree Monique. I too have the polyanna syndrome. Hmm, perhaps we both need to learn from the people who upset us and use their strategies.
8/21/2012 10:06:02 am

We do…or maybe we can use our writing as revenge to do and say all the things we would never do and say to people in real life!

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