Thursday, November 17, 2011

The need for Conflict in stories

During a session of the critique group that I belong to, one of the members was reading her ten pages and what struck me was her book for me had ended whenshe was only 30 pages into the story. The writing was wonderful, and really drew you in because she is a mistress of putting words together. The senses were there. I could see the setting. Her characters were believeable -- almost. That night while trying to find sleep I kept puzzling over what was wrong with the story.

One of those flashes hit me. There was no real conflict in the story. I'm not talking about there being physical confrontations but as soon as the problem in her story arose and there was a great potential for conflict. The heroine was from a different background from the hero. The heroine and the hero both had secrets. But they were hiding the secrets not from each other but from themselves.

I called her the next morning and gave her my take on the story. Her response was "I don't like conflict." I shook my head. "Without conflict there can be no story." Just because a person avoids it in life doesn't meant the characters in their stories should avoid conflict. Solving the problems of the characters too easily makes the book fall flat. If the characters in a story don't have to fight either something inside themselves or something from the outside the story falls flat.

While you and I may not need conflict in our lives, the characters in our stories do. Without this element what you have may be brilliantly written but will leave the reader wondering what the story was about.


  1. "I don't like conflict" - WOW. What else drives a story? Every page of a novel should be pushed by the tension of conflict- of varying degrees.

  2. Wow, the author doesn't have to like it in order to create it so her characters can grow. Maybe she is just writing for self gratification and that's okay.

  3. Admittedly, I have not been at your dining room table in a loooooong time, but this floors me, nonetheless.