All stories, all history, has conflict. There’s a lot of conflict in the world today. I’m not sure the human race could survive without it. If there were no conflict, our ancestors would never have left the trees to walk upright. Conflict motivates us, forces us out of our comfort zones and into the heart of the story. It should do the same for our characters.
Our species has a lot of history which tells us that we humans seem to thrive on it. Apparently, we can’t get enough of it. A close examination of world history shows we humans have always had some kind of conflict going on somewhere, somehow. There’s so much history that when we look at it, we find ourselves looking for the memorable parts, which are usually conflicts. Our history is littered with it. We don’t remember the calm parts of our history, only the conflicts that jut out.
If we want to be good writers, we want conflict in our stories. We need it for our stories to be memorable. Our stories would be stagnant and boring without it. Conflict moves them along and keeps our readers reading, or viewers watching, in the case of movies. We need something to contrast with the peaceful, pleasant parts of the story.
That’s not to say that you can’t have too much of a good thing. You need to intersperse some calm in the chaos of conflict in your story. Conflict should be the raging river that takes us from one island of calm to another. The calmness of the islands are important too. They give your character time to breath and get ready for the next part of the story.
Use conflict to carry your characters to the next island. Let it take them over the Waterfall of Climax into the serene Lake of Resolution. The balance here is precarious. The islands can’t be too big or too close together. You need to balance the calm and the chaos. Then dump your characters over that waterfall into the lake. That’s how conflict works.
Too much conflict can ruin the story, though. Your readers need to have periods of calm water or an island to rest on before tackling the next wild ride down stream to the conclusion. On the other hand, too much time to reflect might drive the reader away, so balance that canoe of story in the river of conflict. Keep the islands small, make the whitewater progressively larger. Let your characters think they are safely in calm waters. Then tip the canoe just before the final patch of white water. You don’t want your readers to have heart attacks. You just want to stimulate them a little. Give them something to hang onto as they drop over Climax Waterfall and float serenely to Conclusion Beach on Resolution Lake. Conflict and contrast makes good stories. Your readers will thank you for it.