Conflict or Struggle?

Higuchi Jiro Kanemitsu on a wooded mountainside struggling with a giant Monkey which grips his sword-blade between its teeth. Painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798 - 1861

Higuchi Jiro Kanemitsu on a wooded mountainside struggling with a giant Monkey which grips his sword-blade between its teeth. Painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798 – 1861

 

If a work of fiction is to succeed in entertaining its audience, there must be conflict.  As this conflict pertains to the horror genre, it may be best to think of it as a struggle.

I think of a conflict as something that can happen over a very short to a very long period of time and may or may not contain any substantial action.  Conflict is a very broad term and can apply to any work of literature or film.   Conflict can apply to Tracy Chevalier’s mind-numbingly boring novel Girl with Pearl Earring as it can to Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart.   Struggle connotates not only a protracted conflict, which is necessary if the work (or anything involving conflict for that matter) is to have any subtantial length.  A boxing match that goes the full fifteen rounds is much more entertaining than one in which one contender is suddenly floored in the first half of the first round.

Struggle connotates action as well, which is as essential for any work of the horror genre as it is to boxing.  In the most entertaining works of horror that come to my mind, the struggle usually begins on or close to the first page and continues on to or close to the last page.  Usually the struggle is between two or more characters, though it can be against inanimate forces (such as surviving a storm) or it can be against inner drives or forces in which the protagonist struggles against himself.

What are your thoughts?  Which term is more suitable for the horror genre:  struggle or conflict?

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