“If there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading.” – Veronica Roth
It is tough to challenge Ms. Roth’s views about stories without conflict and about them not being worth telling. Why? Authenticity. Stories without conflict become unrealistic and dull to the individual experience. Everyone faces some turmoil because the world in which we live in is in constant conflict. Stories are the echoes of our lives.
Consider the most read books within the last 50 years: Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, Gone With The Wind, and the Bible. While the tales are extensive, complex, and set in various worlds and genres, they all share something in common. Conflict. These different series captivate audiences throughout the world. The stories’ main protagonists face multiple battles and tribulations that they will have to conquer to progress to the next stage in their journey. We can’t help but fall in love with the likes of Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins. We root for the underdogs because we view ourselves as the small guys.
Cinema is another form of storytelling. Some of the finest classic movies such as Ben-Hur and The Godfather contain conflicted characters. Even though the films are different, we see a theme of moral conflict within the main characters. For a modern audience to relate, consider the Marvel franchise. The Marvel movies thrill a global audience, creating a billion-dollar empire. Would these films “wow” the viewer if there were no misfortunes, sacrifices, or a villain to fight? What would be the point for the Avengers assembling if there wasn’t a conflict or an adversary to defeat? Audiences observe the bonds formed between the characters. In the first Avengers movie, a few of the characters had to swallow their pride, humble themselves, and learn how to work as a unit. We saw the conflict; the skirmishes that each member endured. Later in the franchise, friendships and loyalties are tested. We can relate to the demise of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ friendship because it happens in everyday life. We find a bit of ourselves in these characters. The conflict within these stories is relatable.
While movies and novels create a dynamic representation of conflict, we do not have to step into a fantasy world to find it. In a business setting, they provide classes on conflict resolutions. There are conflicts with coworkers – coworkers have to determine alternatives to work collectively. Managers wrestle with hard decisions such as firing or laying off someone. Other times one may struggle with organizing and prioritizing their day. Even though some of these examples are minor, they each have a state of conflict.
If we dive deeper, conflicts surround our personal lives, whether manifested in the physical or mental form. How many individuals are battling cancer? How many people are suffering from depression? While these are life-altering ailments, consider the number of thoughts racing through your mind. In one week how many condemning thoughts have surfaced? Better yet, try just one whole day. Do you struggle with believing you are worthless or never measuring up? The self-help genre is a billion-dollar industry. There are countless self-help books and tools to help individuals overcome their destructive thoughts. The mind is a battlefield. We are in constant turmoil within our false beliefs. You are your worst enemy.
These examples of novels, cinema, and real-life struggles show the human condition and the world in turmoil. Stories are a small reflection of our lives. Throughout our lives, we will endure hardship and face countless battles. Written or spoken tales have the power to show the authenticity of our turmoil and our struggles. Powerful stories can give a sense of hope that we can persevere; we can overcome the obstacles we face. If stories do not illustrate conflict, it doesn’t present the truth of the world. Our world isn’t ‘Pleasantville’. Without conflict, the reward of one’s journey is empty, lackluster, and uninspiring. “A story is not worth telling if there is no conflict.”