If we go by the meaning of the word “conflict”, it means disagreement or an argument against an opinion or idea. There are over seven billion humans on this planet following different religions, speaking different languages, belonging to different cultures, etc. There are humans who think alike on some matters but they do not necessarily agree on all aspects. If all humans thought in one way and had a single mindset, then there would not arise any conflict. But that is expecting the impossible, because then humans would not be different from machines or robots, and there would be no new ideas or innovations. Everything would be mechanical and monotonous, if everyone thought on same lines.
Each human should have respect for the opinion of others, but it is not necessary to completely accept or agree with the opinion of the other. There can be multiple solutions to a problem; one may prefer one methodology, while another may use different method to resolve the same problem. The important thing is to achieve the solution to the problem, no matter in what way.
Generally, a conflict in a story is between the protagonist and the antagonist, but may appear in different forms. When an antagonist has goals opposed to those of the protagonist, we know that out of the two, only one will be victorious. This creates suspense as we wonder who will triumph, and how. Conflicts in stories can be of different types; it may be the clash of wills, a moral choice, or a mental struggle. Reading stories with any type of conflict gives an insight to the reader to real life instances. Drama is the essence of conflict, and conflict is the essence of dram. Without it, we would have no story or incentive for narrative. Neither the story teller, nor the reader, feels interested in telling or reading a conflict-free story.
The human mind is such that it attracts negativity first, unless a person has mastered the art of seeing the positive in all aspects, which is very rare. If everything is “hunky dory” in a story, the readers will not like to read it. If stories do not have any conflict element in them, then the readers feel bored and all the stories will flow in the same direction. Conflict in the story adds spice to the story. Moreover, every human in this world has, in his lifetime faced some struggle and done in his best to overcome his difficulties. Therefore, a reader will relate his own struggles to the conflict element in a story, or he may also get an idea about how to overcome his own existing struggles while reading about the struggles which a character faces in the story. Well-known writers use both internal and external conflict in their stories, to highlight the obstacles the characters in their story faced in achieving their goals.
Story telling is also an art. An audience may not be impressed with the story if it is just read out in a plain manner. The story teller makes a lot of efforts to keep the attention of the audience intact throughout the story. To keep the listener’s minds engaged, the story teller has to present the story in an artistic way. If there is no conflict in the story, the teller will not be able to provide variations in voice, tones or in presentation of the story. A presenter or the story teller will be able to do more justice to his work if there is some sort of conflict in the story.
A conflict in a sense brings a twist to the story, and increases the element of suspense. People are often eager to know how the character in the story is going to deal with the conflicts that he faces. It makes the story interesting. In the world there are many conflicts, taking place in many places. A person has conflicts with himself where he has to make a difficult choice or he may have an external conflict, where he does not agree the with idea or opinion of others. Stories are written as a matter of fiction. However, some element of each story is based on reality because it is written by humans who based on their experiences or circumstances in life. This allows a reader to relate the conflicts in the stories with the real life conflicts. Innovative writing can attract the attention of the readers. If the writers write conflict- free stories, the stories become monotonous and may not be preferred. Conflicts keep the reader engrossed in the story. Resolution of conflicts in a story can also be seen as a preventive tool, which may be applied by the reader in future situations.
If there is a story without conflict, it could be very dull. For example, if there is a story that there was a boy and a girl and they loved each other, their families married then and they lived happily ever after, this story does not create any interest in the minds of readers. Unless there is a problem in their life and they get married by overcoming the obstacles they faced, it does not create any enjoyment to readers.
There are very few stories which do not have any conflict in them. For instance, stories which are based on science fiction do not necessarily have conflict in them; still they create interest amongst the readers. Stories involving aliens or other worlds are liked, but the scope to write at length on these topics is limited.
In conclusion, what Veronica Roth has said is completely right: Conflict is the crux of a good story which retains the attention of the readers throughout.