Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Going Overboard With Conflict

Is there such a thing as too much conflict in a storyline?

Recently, the Audience channel has been showing episodes of 24, that shoot ‘em, All-American TV show about Jack Bauer chasing bad guys, saving his daughter, fighting his co-workers, and trying to convince everyone that, yes, the bomb is about to explode. The unique premise is that each season occurs within a 24-hour period. Each episode is about what happens within that one-hour, real-time period. That alone increases the tension.

Saving the nation from atomic bombs, terrorist plots, co-workers with a god-complex, and poison gas is a high threshold for most people. For Jack, it’s all jammed into this single day.

24 debuted in 2001 and ended 2010. I didn't start watching until the sixth season but it hooked me instantly. Now, with the re-runs, I finally get to watch the earliest episodes that I missed.

I love this show. The very realistic violence is difficult to watch; torture or the idiots who impede Jack’s mission. It is all the same to me.

However, sometimes the conflict is too much.

The president has to make a decision about whether to retaliate against several Arab countries, thwarted by his vice-president when he makes the wrong move, a cabinet member learns of the conspiracy and tries to warn the president but is kidnapped and injured during her attempt to escape. Meanwhile Jack is on the receiving end of torture and his daughter is in police custody.

And Holy Cats, all this in about fifteen minutes.

By the end of this episode, I feel wrung out and ready for a break.

So when is too much conflict a problem? As the witness is shot when he tries to relay the location of the bomb? When Jack discovers he cannot expect help from his friends due to government bureaucracy? Or when two gals working surveillance get into a catfight over a broken love affair?

When is too much conflict a problem?

Btw, my DVR is about to explode. And crap, Justified starts next Tuesday. AiEEEEEEEE.


  1. I loved watching "24", my husband and I watched every single episode and were so hooked. I don't know why it worked with that much conflict - somehow it just did. However, in general I think that much conflict is too much - my brain just can't keep up (not to say anything about my emotions!). Good luck with your DVR!

  2. I've never seen 24--I've heard so much about the overabundance of conflict and violence that I'm afraid it might make me numb. I find I do better with a little bit of relaxed "breathing space" in any given episode of a show. But I do love Justified.

  3. I think there can be too much. If the viewer or reader can't catch his breath, that's a problem.

  4. I enjoyed 24, I think I watched through season 5 or maybe 6. But luckily I got to watch it on dvd rather than wait a week for each episode. Of course, that also meant I'd be sitting glued to the television for hours on end, lol. I will admit that when reading I'm always glad when there's a little break for the characters, a little breathing room like when Merry and Pippin get to relax once Treebeard et al take care of Saruman. They deserve finding that stash of stuff and a nice relaxing smoke!

  5. I never got around to 24 but I am going to watch Justified. Is it as good as they say it is? I guess I shall see.

  6. When a story gets to be too jam packed, I tend to get away from it. Never watched 24. I think it was on opposite something else, but I can't recall.

  7. Shows like this aren't so bad when I watched them week by week, but I agree. Seeing them all marathon style would rattle my nerves like no other. The conflict has to be make sense and feel organic. Do that, and I don't mind a lot. :)

  8. Like Alex said, I think the reader/viewer needs to be able to catch their breath or see the pause that demonstrates character growth. But...I don't think I've come across a book yet that I think has too much conflict. I think most people instinctively have a sense for this balance. We need to catch our breaths as writers too. ;)


Your Turn. Don't Be Shy

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...