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

Total posts: [82]
1 2
Hmm... all of those (that I can think of) do have some kind of conflict, though, even if it's a lot softer than what the parent series normally has. If you have an example in mind, please share.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
52 chihuahua014th Mar 2013 04:45:14 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
I just realized one good story with no conflict. While "good" is subjective, what's not subjective is that millions of people find it good.

Genesis 1.

The first story in the entire Bible.

We've already stated many short stories with no conflict in this thread, but Genesis 1 is a notable example.

53 Twentington14th Mar 2013 07:19:17 PM from Somewhere , Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
One of my 9001 problems is, what kind of conflicts could arise? I have four siblings, coming-of-age with adoptive parent, one of the four sibs gets married.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

54 ArsThaumaturgis15th Mar 2013 06:28:51 AM , Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
In short, I'd say "pretty much anything that might get between a character and their desires". That, I think, is more or less what conflict is in the narrative sense: a character wants something, and something — be it another character, a system, simple circumstance or otherwise — makes that less than trivial.

For example, a character wants to get a fabulous jewel. Unfortunately, said jewel, while left out in the open, is left out in the open in the middle of a trackless desert. Our conflict is this obstacle to the character achieving their desire, and our story comes to some degree from how they respond to that: Do they give up and go drink themselves into a stupor? Find a native tracker (but can they trust him or her)? Attempt the crossing themselves, vying with thirst, hunger, firey days and frigid nights and the gnawing fear that they are irrecoverably lost? Try to find a magic user to whisk them across the desert (where then do they find one, and at what price does this transport come)? Etc...
^ Yeah, that. Even in Genesis 1 (putting aside the matter of whether millions of people venerating something is the same as them thinking it's a good story) there's tension in the sense that it's a tale of a protagonist who begins with nothing and ends up with everything, in this case quite literally.

I mean it is about The Biggest Cheese so technically there can't be any obstacles because His power is absolute, but that's presumably why the story is presented as though there's some kind of obstacle, as though a series of steps must be overcome. If it just said, 'God thought there should be stuff so all of time and space were created fully formed and populated from nothing', THAT would be a bad story.

edited 15th Mar '13 7:55:24 AM by Kesteven

I highly doubt it.
Like fantasy? Like Samurai stories? check this out.
If there's one thing that I believe is true, it's that there's a proportional relationship between the amount of conflict a story has and how complex it has the potential to be. Here's a story with relatively little conflict:

Jane, average middle class citizen, catches a minor cold, takes a few days off work, and gets better a few days later.

Within the scope of that premise, there's not much that can or needs to be elaborated on. You might chronicle something like her trip to the doctor's office or her being anxious about missing an important date or making someone else catch the cold, but that's about all I can think of. Let's see what happens when we add a boatload more conflict to the story:

Jane was cured of her cold last week, but this week finds herself addicted to the cold medicine. She struggles to overcome the addiction and ultimately triumphs.

There's a lot more you can do with this that I can think of. How will all of Jane's loved ones react? Will Jane give in to the addiction or fight it? What does the addiction drive her to do? When she goes to renew her perscription, will Todd, the possibly sleazy pharmeceutical salesman try to help her or take advantage of her? Will she be fired from her job? Does she see the medicine as a "gateway drug" and become hooked on other drugs as well? Does she have a car accident if she tries to drive? Does she sue the drug company for making a drug with addictive properties? Does she overdose at any point, and if so, what happens to her? If she starts running out of money, what does she do to get her next hit?

And those are just some basic questions. There's a lot of ways to answer most of them, and for some of them, the answers may change as the story progresses, something that's also true of the first story, but not to near the same extent.

This is why I normally do prefer to produce and consume media that has conflict, because the more conflict it has, the more it has to work with. Trying to write a story without conflict for me would be putting a severe limit on my imagination.
Yes, there are stories without conflict; good, interesting stories in which something does happen.

There are many different ones, but you can look for kishotenketsu to get started, a four act structure popular in China, Japan and Korea. The four act structure is explained in the name: ki(ku) - introduction, sho(ku) - development, ten(ku) - twist, and ke(kku) - meeting point.

A good, brief example of kishotenketsu form is often:

Daughters of Itoya, in the Honmachi of Osaka. The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen. Throughout history, generals killed the enemy with bows and arrows. The daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes.

You could argue the conflict is then between the audience's understanding and the chaos the narrative institutes, but that is better described with the word tension, rather than conflict; and at that point we have already broken from the insular eurocentric thought that conflict is necessary for a good story.

edited 24th Jun '15 7:21:37 PM by the_nikola

59 Kazeto24th Jun 2015 04:56:53 PM , Relationship Status: It's complicated
Right ... you see, the problem with that one is that not only is the translation of this poem that you see on Wikipedia kind of dry and altogether useless for the sort of demonstration that you want here, but it's also a short poem that is much closer to being an Ice-Cream Koan than to being a full-length story.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand what you are trying to say. But the example ... well, it's more of a framework for a potential story than a story itself, and even if the framework does not contain any visible conflict that does not stop the story made from it from having conflict in it. I'm not contesting that it might be well written, but that's that and its usefulness here is something else.

Because really, with "conflict" not referring only to combat but to a plethora of other possible situations, it really is kind of hard to write a story without it unless it's a really short story. And once you rid the story without conflict of all that is not necessary for anything because of the lack of conflict, you might very well end up with something that is too short to actually be considered a story.
I wouldn't say Proust's works are short by any stretch of imagination, and yet they, too, are not based on conflict.

Btw, please point me to a better translation, I would love to read it !

edited 24th Jun '15 5:40:52 PM by the_nikola

61 Kazeto24th Jun 2015 06:18:19 PM , Relationship Status: It's complicated
Hmm ... the one about Proust's work might or might not be the point. I'd never actually read anything he wrote, or at least I don't recall having ever done that, so I am relying on summaries on Wikipedia there and it gives me something that might or might not count as conflict. So I do say that you may possibly have a point there, because I don't like to say that someone has a point without verifying it and I can't really verify it there; thus, going for the middle but veering into the direction of having that point, however slightly.

And as for the translation, well ... I'd checked the poem in the original just to make sure that I lost nothing due to translation mishaps, and I have to say I'm not sure if there actually is a better translation. But really, translating poetry from eastern to western languages tends to be an exercise in either masochism or literary ballet. And honestly, I don't think I can even judge if this one is "good" or "better" or "bad" or whatever else, because though it is not exactly useful here, for the purpose for which you'd tried to use it, the translation isn't incorrect or anything so it's mostly just a matter of style and that's just our preferences so there's no "better" or "worse" here.

Anyway, the thing—which the translation provided on Wikipedia might or might not actually make clear, hence why I'd called it "dry"—about the poem is that it relies on a wordplay to deliver something that is in-between a Wham Line and a Dissimile. Because yes, the daughters do kill, yes, they do it with their eyes, yes, they aim for the heart, but no, they don't actually hit people or kill them or anything and the whole thing is left rather ambiguous. And when you leave a potential love story ambiguous ... sorry, but I won't believe if you tell me that "no, there most assuredly is no chance for any conflict to be present therein" until I see it for myself (and in this case neither I nor any other reader actually can).

But I'm starting to rant, so I'll stop now.
Well, at least the rant was interesting; which might also be a good way to sum up a viewpoint on Proust's works :)
No. All stories are based around conflict. Hell, much of real life is based around conflict. As long as something—anything—is stopping you from getting what you want, there is conflict. And if nothing is stopping you from getting what you want, why would I want to read about you?
64 Wolf106625th Jun 2015 05:22:38 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
[up]Exactly. "I woke up this morning and wanted a bagel so I went outside, jumped in my car, drove to the store and bought a bagel. It was delicious." is hardly enthralling reading. Even if you zhoozh it up a bit by substituting "space-bagel", "anti-grav vehicle" and "hypermart" in the appropriate places, it's not going to help.

Much more interesting when I go outside and see the large pool of oil seeping out from under my car and get the horrible realisation that not only is my quest for a bagel seriously impaired, but how the fuck am I going to get to work afterwards?
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Because it's interesting, son of Deshar.
66 Kazeto26th Jun 2015 01:50:47 PM , Relationship Status: It's complicated
How so? And why so?
Stories are about people, because people read them, watch them, play them.. Man (life) is not just conflict, but also cooperation, leeching, love etc. Nitpicking conflict in everything might be a fine tool, a fine lens on the, really, reality or our experience of it - to draw out tension; but it's also zealoty blinding to the other ways we experience it.

Conflict is just a dominant perception. Far from the required one, or the only one.

Lemme rephrase it - Can you have a story without conflict? Who cares (but yes). What is the story? That's the question.

edited 26th Jun '15 4:02:02 PM by the_nikola

Erotica often has minimal conflict, especially short erotica fiction. This is very variable. A lot of erotica/porn has tons of conflict. Others are simply about people meeting and having sex with the flimsiest of excuses.

Two Gamers on a Couch has minimal conflict.

But most stories are going to have at least some conflict, however slight. That's what life is all about; overcoming obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are fun, such as the induced hardship of camping, hiking, etc. and sometimes these obstacles are really really not fun. But that's life. Nobody's life is completely without any strife.
Absolutely, most stories will have conflict central to them, and are based on conflict.

Life is many things, and many interesting experiences, and so stories are many, and there are many good ones. Obstacles, trials, and conflict are many, and can be perceived in many more experiences - and dominantly is, sure, though not all experiences exist in the relationship of conflict.

Thus, too, it is possible to have good stories without conflict.

In search of lost time is about train of thought. And is very. Very. Very long. Waiting for Godot is about persistence and absurdity. Kishotenketsu form is about chaos and rejoining. None of those have conflict.

More so, in my opinion, many more stories are not about conflict enough to say the story has conflict. Some love stories are just about love, not conflict as well, even though you can perceive conflict in love. What grabs your attention, that's what it's about. If you don't notice conflict, only power and boobs, well... to you it's about power and boobs.

Nutcracker and Gormenghast are about aesthetics, not about conflict. Rendezvous with Rama is about aliens, not about conflict with aliens. None of them have enough conflict to justify saying everything has conflict.

edited 26th Jun '15 9:48:52 PM by the_nikola

70 Demetrios26th Jun 2015 10:20:33 PM from Northbrook, Illinois
Not to mention that not all conflicts are appealing. This means you, Neutopia.
It is better to live for one day as a tiger than 1,000 years as a sheep.
Stories are conflict. Without conflict, there is no story.

This was discussed in another thread as well, the best post about it in my view being Aprilla's.
72 Wolf106627th Jun 2015 10:50:13 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Strange Kiwi fella
[up][up][up]It's a long time since I read it but I recall that in Rendezvous With Rama they had to overcome difficulties getting to certain parts of the construct and had to beat a hasty retreat in order to get out of Rama before it fucked off out of the solar system with them aboard - both forms of "conflict".
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Yes, Rendezvous With Rama has conflict, just that it's more about describing the ship, than about conflict. That's why I put in the 'has conflict, but it's not about conflict' list
[up]No story is really "about" its main conflict, though. Stories are about the themes and ideas inherent in their conflict and its resolution. The conflict is just a means to an end; a method of communicating those ideas to the audience in a way that holds their rapt attention.


Pornography generally has no conflict, because it's wish-fulfillment. It's about giving the audience the climax up-front, instead of making them work for it like normal stories do. It's the difference between eating ice cream over and over, and eating it only occasionally, after a lot of hard work. The former is indulgent, the other is an earned treat. The former is pornography, the latter is a traditional narrative arc.

edited 29th Jun '15 4:09:02 PM by Tungsten74

75 Demetrios29th Jun 2015 04:30:47 PM from Northbrook, Illinois
Pornography generally has no conflict, because it's wish-fulfillment.

Then why does it have a lot of seedy-looking men and cheesy dialog? tongue
It is better to live for one day as a tiger than 1,000 years as a sheep.

Total posts: 82
1 2