“He wanted to marry her, so he proposed. She said yes. Their families were happy. They had a great wedding and they lived happily ever after. The end.”
“He wanted to marry her, so he proposed. She said yes. But their families hated each other. The families did not want them to get married to each other. However, they had a great wedding and they lived happily ever after. The end.”
So, which of these stories do you think has more of an appeal to you? I bet that it is the second one because it has an obstacle, a conflict. The word “however” may bring the conclusion to these stories, but still, our minds would want to know what happened in the middle or raise the question of how these scenarios even became possible.
In a story, size does not matter. We may forget a big novel but we will not forget the little and short stories that touch our hearts; where the character is struggling to get what he/she desires for. We want to see them in this way, though we would love to hear a happy ending to the story.
At the core of any story, conflict creates the forces to move the story on, and provides the twists that are required for building crucial characters and scenarios. Conflict is the heart of a transformation that attracts the reader, which is not possible just by only telling or describing the feelings and situations. If we think of a “good story”, there is no way that it does not have any sort of hindrance or obstacle that is troubling the characters in the story. Conflict can be experienced by the character himself (internal conflict), or by their nature (external conflict). Thus, no conflict means no story.
The conflict allows a story to be remembered. However, the obstacles created by other people can grab more interest in a reader because internal conflicts are easier to solve rather than the external ones, over which we have no control. See how by adding conflict, one can make this simple incident worth reading just by adding complications or conflicts between the characters. The bottom line is that you cannot write a good story without obstacles, and conflict is the best way to create them.
The decoration of language becomes stunning when the momentum and the conflict are blended into the story to satisfy the interests of the readers, word by word. The main task of a writer is to portray the image that is hidden between the lines. Readers might get the flow of the situations in both of the stories above, but he/she would love to envision the second story as not only does it have the momentum, but it also has the conflict which catches one’s interest. This is how conflicts add beauty to the words we use in write-ups.
“I don’t think avoiding conflict is not caring.” – Ai Yazawa.
Sometimes we’re loyal to more than one thing. When there’s a conflict, we have to choose which loyalty to honour.” ― Claudia Gray.
The sensibility of human beings in judging any write-ups changes over time. When a person is a child, he sees the world from a different perspective. Whatever he reads, he thinks that it will produce something good. There will be a happy ending in every story if there is no conflict present in it at all. That is what the first quote above says: avoiding conflict is caring. But will the quote be enough to support the statements? As earlier said, the opinions and tastes of literature change within the course of time. That very child who used to avoid conflicts in stories will give different opinions once he has grown up. If he does not find conflict, he will say the story doesn’t have life. You cannot say these arguments are not true in any sense. But still, the question arises, being: why does having conflict hold the reader’s interest? The answer lies in our lifestyle. Since birth, or since the dawn of civilisation, human beings have been struggling for survival in the world. If we even think about the situation when human beings used to live in caves, food hunting was the only means they used to have conflicts over and this was either with other animals, or as a result of the environment (natural disasters) which led to a struggle for their survival. So, conflict is something eternal. If a person, while reading, finds conflicts, they imagine themselves in the place of the characters in the stories who are struggling with these conflicts. It seems it’s a story of their own where they are the characters. Think about a horror story where a person is in search of the thing which has the utmost importance in the story. Which will be the more appropriate scenario: the character fighting with the ghost and after many struggles succeeding to acquire that thing, or something very simple where he simply goes and takes the thing? I would personally say the first one as it will create suspense and keep the story alive, holding the reader’s interest. Again, conflict here becomes an integral part of the writing.
But can only conflict be the heart of these stories? What if there are no conflicts? Will the stories be avoided or deemed invaluable? In response, I say that if we look for the answers we will find something different. There are so many narrative structures where you have no conflicts but still, you will find that they are popular. These are very episodic where you will find, for example, members of a family who are doing things together and finding pleasures, and everything in the story will indicate towards a situation where life is going smoothly, fulfilling the expectations of human lives where one does not want to face conflict at all. That does not happen. The people who are more imaginative will be able to keep their interest until the last page. But people with a practical view will not even get halfway through as they will not find similarities with their own lifestyles.
Conflict is something that makes the stories or things you read come alive. But it is not only true in the case of stories, but also in our lives as well. Stories reflect our reality; thus conflict in reality also makes our lives meaningful.