Is it possible to have a good story with no conflict?:

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1 FallenLegend25th Nov 2011 06:21:27 AM from Navel Of The Moon.
Craziest of all
In everyday life we enjoy a lot of activities with no conflict we go to watch movies, talk with friends, write, draw, listen to music sleep etc and those are activities we enjoy because there is no conflict.

But could a story be interesting with no conflict, no obstacles, secrets, no villains?. Sure the closest thing is the Slice of Life genre. But even then the conflict tends to be around jerks (quasi villains) or an everyday life obstacle that must be overcomed.

Could a good story (enjoyable) be made without an obstacle, characters simply enjoying life?. Of course I don't mind Mary Sue stories were only the author enjoys them but a good story that can be enjoyed my many

edited 24th Dec '12 12:46:43 PM by FallenLegend

Make your hearth shine through the darkest night; let it transform hate into kindness, evil into justice, and loneliness into love.
Not a complete story, no. I suppose you could make a short piece that's a reflection on the characters, but it won't really be a story.

edited 25th Nov '11 10:40:45 AM by ElderAtropos

If there's no conflict, there's no plot, just random things that happened.
4 MajorTom25th Nov 2011 06:39:18 AM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Scenery short stories have no real conflict, indeed are almost examples of The Tropeless Tale.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
Woefully Ineloquent
Since a quiet life with no conflict is enjoyable to many, I don't see why a story about such a life would not be enjoyable. It would have to be nicely written though, run of the mill prose would completely ruin a conflict-less story.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
7 YuriStrike25th Nov 2011 07:25:10 AM from I'm telling nobody!
It depends.
See ALL the stars!
[up][up] Perhaps the inverse of Angst Dissonance? We don't get invested in the characters if everything is happy?

edited 25th Nov '11 8:44:52 AM by Yej

Da Rules excuse all the inaccuracy in the world. Listen to them, not me.
Woefully Ineloquent
In such a story, the way to get the audience invested in the characters, is to make them ridiculously human. And also maybe constantly have the audience go "Hey, I tend to do that sort of stuff too!"/"Somebody I know often does that!"

I know that I preferred the more mellow, calm and conflict-less parts of Burnt Shadows because of how human and realistic the characters were. Same thing with War and Peace and Anna Karenina, actually, the parts where nothing was happening were the best.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
10 blackcat25th Nov 2011 09:29:02 AM , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Changed the title to "possible" from "pissible". If that was incorrect holler.
We never go any where without our swords and boas.
11 EnemyMayan25th Nov 2011 09:39:49 AM from A van down by the river
[up] LMFAO.

Hmm... a good story without conflict. Considering the fact that I'm rather well-read, and can't think of such a thing anywhere in existence, I'd say it's unlikely. Probably not impossible, though. Very few things are actually impossible.
Jesus saves. Gretzky steals, he scores!
I would imagine a slice of life where the focus is not on conflict resolution, but your capacity to stop and just smell the roses along the way.
13 Wolf106625th Nov 2011 11:39:28 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
I read an article on conflict some time ago, I wish I could find it again as it was brilliantly done.

It basically started with the premise of a man going to his fiancee's house and stated it pretty much in terms of "he went to his fiancee's house."

Then it "ramped it up" a bit along the lines of "it was raining and night time" to introduce a bit of conflict from the environment.

Still not terribly exciting or engaging.

By the time it got to the last example you have the guy struggling through the storm, the rain lashing against him, soaking him to the skin, stinging his eyes and further blinding him. The wind is freezing, tugging at his saturated clothes, buffeting him and making it hard to walk, whipping him repeatedly with storm-tossed branches. The story gets inside his head, showing why it's so vital he should get to his fiancee, causing him to brave the terrible storm and exploring his determination to get there against all odds.

The last example is filled with conflict and is much better for it. Something as "mundane" as going to his fiancee's house became a personal struggle and a hard-won victory.

That's not to say that every passage has to be filled with conflict, but in the context of that short story, the story revolves around how much of an issue it was to get somewhere. The initial "story" - basically "Jack visited his fiancee, Jill." - had no conflict and you receive it with the same viewpoint as if a friend had said "I went to the shops today" - your immediate thought is "And?" Because quite frankly, you don't give a flying fuck about that - unless your friend has something really interesting to add to it such as "and I saw Terry Pratchett at the check-out so we chatted about his latest book" or unless you already know that your friend suffers from both agoraphobia and ME and you're well aware that something as mundane as going to the shop (for most people) is a major achievement for him.

As the reader introduced to the character, your expectation of learning something interesting or relevant (or at least entertaining) is still there and it's the task of the author to convey the relevant information to make it so.

Thus "he went to his fiancee's house" is boring while "he braved the worst storm in 40 years just to bring aid to his beloved" engages the reader's attention - if it's written in such a way that we see both his hardship and determination.

Conflict does not necessarily mean "Hero vs Big Bad". Conflict comes from many sources - the environment, other members of the team of protagonists, the hero's own flaws, failings or uncertainties.

Frankly, I seldom write "villains" - I find it rather over done. I prefer to give the heroes a "mundane" task that seems, at first blush, to be a cake walk - then have it prove to be as difficult as possible due to whatever the environment, the characters' own limitations and the situation can throw at them. If there are any "villains" in my stories, they tend to be minor, rather than a "Big Bad" - the punk that steps out of an alley and tries to relieve them of their valuables, the arsehole who tries to make things difficult for them because he's taken a dislike to them etc.

That way, I can test them in a number of different ways and even escalate the obstacles without the reader wondering "why didn't the Big Bad just send out all his troops at once and wipe them out rather than sending out successively "tougher" opponents at regular intervals?"

But still, Big Bad or not, the conflict is still there. It's been said that without conflict, there is no story - and I agree with that. Take out all the conflict and what you basically have is a very short bit of text that is usually called "the plot summary".

"Joe and his trusted friends are sent out to find a shrubbery. They discover his mum had one in the basement all along."

So much for the synopsis, now let's get some conflict into that and tell this fucking story.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Occasionally Smart
Conflict does not necessarily mean "Hero vs Big Bad". Conflict comes from many sources - the environment, other members of the team of protagonists, the hero's own flaws, failings or uncertainties.

I was thinking of saying that myself. It's very true, and it's one of the few story-telling rules that I actually remember learning in school. An antagonist doesn't need to be a villain - it doesn't even need to be a person. For a story to be engaging, the reader needs to have an emotional investment in the story. Like you said, "Jack went to see his fiancee Jill" has very little emotional resonance until you add something that gives the reader something to feel.
He's like fire and ice and rage. He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time. Rory punched him in the face.
15 Dec25th Nov 2011 12:08:40 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
From what I've seen of them, Iyashikei series get pretty close. Also, while they might have some disparity or strife to make the humor work, a lot of newpaper comics don't really have the sort of big conflicts you move movies or books with, unless they're entering a story arc.

So it does seem possible, as long as you do a good job creating what you're entertaining the audience with instead. It probably isn't a good idea to aim for zero-conflict though, IMO, because the only way to do that reliably is to keep everything completely static, which doesn't really work for long.
Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
16 nrjxll25th Nov 2011 12:19:44 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
Is it possible to have a good story with no conflict?

No, but "conflict" comes in many forms. It's certainly possible to have a good story with no antagonist.
The Puzzler
@ OP: Can the characters transform without conflict?

I doubt it.
Has ADD, plays World of Tanks, thinks up crazy ideas like children making spaceships for Hitler. Occasionally writes them down.
18 Wolf106625th Nov 2011 12:44:29 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
The minute you throw up any "obstacle", no matter how minor, you've introduced conflict.

Joe and his trusted friends go to the shrubber but even the smallest shrubberies are too expensive - that's a simple form of conflict - they have to overcome that obstacle by either correcting their personal failing (insufficient money) or finding another way around the problem. Therein lies the tale.

"Bill arrived at John's house and said 'I really need a peanut butter sandwich' so John made one and gave it to him." does not make for an engaging story. Nor does "Bill really wanted a peanut butter sandwich so he went to John's house and got one."

No one wants to read about how I got up in the morning, had a cigarette and coffee for breakfast, rode my motorbike to work, breezed through the day answering phone calls that only required password resets and unlocking accounts then rode back home, had dinner and went to bed.

Hell, I have difficulty maintaining enthusiasm throughout that, even if I've had a couple of fairly challenging calls or a recalcitrant machine that just "refuses" to respond to my ministrations - and it's my life, so I've sort of got to have a vested interest in it. I certainly wouldn't expect a reader to give a rat's arse, though.

If, however, it was a stormy day as I rode in (foreshadowing) and developed into a full-scale typhoon after I arrived at work, blacking out the power grid, trapping me and my co-workers in the building as it's too dangerous to leave, the windows are being smashed by flying tree branches, people are injured by broken glass, someone tries to leave and is badly injured - requiring a rescue - and we've got no food and we're cut off - then it starts to get interesting.

Or maybe it's a fire (entailing more than everyone filing out in an orderly fashion when the alarm sounds and standing around at the assembly point, smoking cigarettes, while waiting for the "All Clear" or the news that we might as well go home) or a terrorist threat. In any case, it's the conflict that drives the story.

Edit: Incidentally, that boring mundane job with its occasional challenging calls and recalcitrant machines has been made all the more "interesting" by some changes to the way things work that have resulted in the "disestablishment" of my position and my family commitments are such that I cannot take the alternative I was offered - resulting in me being made redundant, at age 48, with 4 kids aged 3 to 9 to support and I've got to find a cheaper place to live and a new job.

"Conflict" has certainly done its bit to make my life more "interesting". grin

edited 25th Nov '11 12:58:44 PM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
19 nrjxll25th Nov 2011 12:49:36 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
[up]I'd note that, again, that right there seems to be making the assumption that conflict needs to be "big". There's no reason you need to have lives in danger to have a good story.
20 Wolf106625th Nov 2011 01:03:39 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
[up]True, but "the fire alarm sounded and everyone filed out via the stairs and the emergency exits and assembled by the cafe down the road. Several people lit cigarettes and Derna counted heads to make sure everyone was there - they were - and people chatted as they waited" doesn't make for a lot of excitement, either. When we were sited at our last venue, that was pretty much "Business as Usual" as the bloody alarm was always going off.

It seems that to make a good story, the consequences of the conflict need to be serious (not necessarily fatal, admittedly) and the reader must feel that failure is a very real possibility.

Real life, however, is such that a lot of really dangerous "conflicts" are well managed - such as the fire alarm example. We have things and procedures in place to decrease the danger and render it - story-wise - "boring".

It's only when that all turns to custard that the story has the reader on the edge of his/her seat.

edited 25th Nov '11 1:24:57 PM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
21 HeavyDDR25th Nov 2011 01:26:35 PM from Central Texas
Who's Vergo-san.
Well the second you have a conflict, that conflict becomes the antagonist in a way. It's what's going against the protagonist and whatever they want.

It'd be possible to make a story with no conflict, sure, but I for one wouldn't like to read it. I can only imagine a really short story or just descriptive prose, and even then, I'm sure if you look hard enough, you could find some metaphorical conflict.
I'm pretty sure the concept of Law having limits was a translation error. -Wanderlustwarrior
22 Wheezy25th Nov 2011 01:34:47 PM from South Philly
(That Guy You Met Once)
Vignettes, porn (and written erotica), Dada Comics, and a lot of short comedy skits - often of the Surreal Humor variety - do it all the time.

However, Your Mileage May Vary as to whether they're good stories in the conventional sense.

edited 25th Nov '11 1:37:27 PM by Wheezy

Woefully Ineloquent
No one wants to read about how I got up in the morning, had a cigarette and coffee for breakfast, rode my motorbike to work, breezed through the day answering phone calls that only required password resets and unlocking accounts then rode back home, had dinner and went to bed.
I absolutely LOVE reading this sort of stuff, and it's so so sad that there's so very little of it and I have to fish it out in all kinds of conflict-ridden books.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
24 MajorTom25th Nov 2011 01:45:41 PM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^^ What's a vignette?

edited 25th Nov '11 1:46:14 PM by MajorTom

"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
A glimpse at a moment in time.

Total posts: 119
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