Without conflict, we don’t have stories! It is at the core of not only every good story but of humanity itself. It is the expression of the main character, provides the setting to draw the reader in and gives perspective for where the story is headed. Conflict in real life grows and matures us. It determines how we set our course and adds depth to our lives and stories. Conflict keeps us in check; it humbles us. Stories are recollections of life events, whether fictional or not. When mapping an outline for writing we consider main characters, setting and the problem to be addressed (conflict). We then add details to support how the conflict was addressed and how it turns out. Conflict leads to climax…the heart of any story.
A story without conflict is not relatable; it speaks of no experience. If a story is offered that shows no conflict, whether that conflict be good or bad, it is shallow or narrow-minded. It leaves both author and audience empty, yearning for something real. Conflict exposes the personality or writing style of the writer. It allows us to identify and connect with not only the characters, but with the one wielding the pen as well. The struggle in the story is the expression and definition of the main characters. It gives them a sense of humanity. Conflict makes the story believable and engaging. For in real life, if we withheld the conflicts we encounter from others, we would be untouchable. Ponder for a moment someone who you can’t seem to relate to or understand. Many people do not understand religious groups and even get angry toward them simply because they cannot relate. There seems to be no conflict in their lives, as though they are living in a false reality. Relationship breeds understanding and conflict forces us into relationship; even if it is just with ourselves. A good story develops the relationship between characters.
Consider the different genres of writing we have the opportunity to experience. From early in life we begin to read about conflict. Every fairy-tale is centred on a terrible situation and faithfully leads us towards a great (albeit sometimes completely implausible) victory. It stirs dreams in our hearts to either be the damsel in distress or the hero that saves her from her conflict. It also stirs hope that real life problems can be faced, even if they seem like the big bad wolf or the terrible stepmother. We all know that mysteries entice us with the thrill of the struggle that is right up ahead. Some people avoid this genre because it can feel too real. Then there are biographies and autobiographies that direct us towards the conflict in someone’s life and show us how that played out for them. They demonstrate the humanity of conflict. It truly is at the core of real life. How about those romance stories? Just as a mystery draws our intellect in with a mighty swoop, the romance grabs up our hearts and carries them away. We begin to vicariously experience it right alongside them, and a conflict stirs in our own hearts on how we want the story to end. We walk away different than what we were before the story began. It adds depth and perception to our humanity.
Conflict is a part of us that comes out even when we strive to ignore or exclude it. Others seek that part of us that has been touched by it in order to determine how we relate to one another. Conflict often feels negative in the moment, but in reality it is good. Once resolved, it gives us satisfaction and closure, both within ourselves and when we escape into the life of others through great stories. Ultimately, it grows us into who we are and who we will be tomorrow! A story without conflict just isn’t a story worth telling.