A few weeks ago we looked at human-vs-human conflict and spent some time discussing bad guys. Today I want to look at what happens when there are no bad guys, but there is still plenty of conflict (which, after all, is necessary for a story). Let's look at humans-vs-nature conflict.
I had fun with this one in my first book, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES. Robin and Brandon suffered the crash of their small plane and went down in the Mokelumne Wilderness area. When all their sources for contact with the outside world were also destroyed in the crash, their chances didn't look so good and it took some clever work on their part to survive.
And yes, in case you're wondering, I read several real-life stories of snow survival and airplane crash survival and I kept the Boy Scout handbook close while writing. The result was a fast-moving adventure story.
Just recently I watched a television replay of the movie, Apollo 13. If you haven't seen this one, I recommend it highly. Besides the star-studded cast, you have a real, absolutely true plot with no bad guys. Bad things happen, but it's human wit and grit against the challenges of outer space and it's riveting.
Another such real-life plot came to us through a friend. A U-2 pilot, Captain Kevin Henry was flying over an undisclosed location overseas when he suddenly forgot how to fly. His condition, something like nitrogen narcosis and caused by oxygen deprivation, is potentially fatal -- even without the risk of crashing an airplane in the process.
The story involves a dozen primary characters who spent several hours getting Kevin safely to the ground and then into treatment to save his life. Even the Arab pilots are good guys and heroes in the award-winning series my dh wrote for the Chico Enterprise-Record, "He Forgot How to Fly."
If you want a good story and you're tired of human conflict (we see plenty of that in the daily news, don't we?), consider pitting your characters against the elements. It can make for a marvelous tale.