I am often confused, having been abused as a child, as to why I have chosen to spend my life writing about conflict. You would think that as an adult I would want to run as far away from conflict as possible, and in many ways I have done just that. I work alone. When my five-year-old has a tantrum—thankfully a rare event, and almost always for good reason—I want nothing more than to resolve things quickly, or better still, to prevent her upset with more supple parenting. I am soft-spoken. When I teach I try not to persuade. I have been accused of appeasement in several arenas. At dinner parties I do my best to help everybody get along.
A psychotherapist would say—as, full disclosure, many have said—that I choose to spend my life writing about conflict precisely because of the conflict of my childhood; I am compulsively striving to control, even to master an abstracted conflict in the hope of transcending not only the humiliation of past abuse but the echoing, damning directives of self-abuse in my psyche. All this is true; but as usual the explanation cannot solve the problem.
Those of us who write scripts talk of an inciting incident, the precise point in our first five or ten pages where and when the conflict that is our story begins. Perhaps it’s fair to think of this section of my essay as an elucidation of a few inciting incidents, at least elements, in the ongoing conflict of my own personal dramaturgy. Read More