Brief essay on the importance of conflict in stories
|When writing fiction and characters are up against a challenge, it is best to incorporate as many odds as possible being against their chances of success. If space travelers in a science fiction story get trapped in temporal space, it would be beneficial if the characters, through dialogue, reveal that no other people who have been in that situation have ever survived. This makes their struggle much more significant.
If the characters are treading in unexplored territory, this makes it more interesting for the readers. If others have been in their situation and survived, then the conflict isn’t as much of a challenge.
If the characters will survive, it is still important to establish obstacles that seem insurmountable to the characters. You, as the writer, know your characters will survive and succeed on their mission, but your readers don’t.
Even in the romance genre conflict can make the story better. If a submissive man is in love with an overbearing woman, a nicer woman might try to rescue him from that situation, thinking that she has more to offer than his Harpie girlfriend. But the nice woman doesn’t understand that the man is in love with his dominant girlfriend, and doesn’t need to be rescued. This dynamic can be the basis for an interesting love triangle story.
Despite all of this advice, conflict can be overdone on rare occasions. There was a film where most of a group of space travelers get killed, including a teenage girl. At the end of the film, time is altered so these characters were brought back to life and their adventure continued, but the disappointment I felt at the girl’s death caused me to only remember the negative aspects of the story. This is why, in my opinion, the film didn’t do well in theaters. Keep this in mind when developing conflict for your characters. Regardless of this one caveat, remember to stress conflict in a story, regardless of genre; even in comedy.