From Writers Helping Writers:
[A]s a Resident Writing Coach here, I’ve previously talked about how to make our story’s conflict stronger.
The most common advice is to add more conflict to our stories, to add more external or internal obstacles that force our characters to struggle while attempting to make progress on their goals. After all, without conflict, our characters would reach their goals immediately: The characters want X and then they get it. In other words, we’ve learned that conflict is what turns a goal into a story.
But what if that’s not the kind of story we’re trying to tell? What if adding conflict doesn’t feel right for our story? Are we stuck?
. . . .
If we grew up in Western culture, chances are that we learned from our time in elementary school that stories are about solving a story problem. In turn, a story problem implies goals, stakes, and conflict, as the characters try to solve the problem.
However, that dramatic-arc narrative style doesn’t apply to every story, especially those in non-Western cultures. More importantly for today’s topic, stories with different narrative structures often don’t rely on conflict the way we’ve learned. This lack of conflict doesn’t mean they don’t “count” as stories, but it does make them different – and that means we can learn from them.
Narrative Structures with No/Low Conflict
Examples of narrative structures that take a different approach to conflict (often ignoring it completely) include:
- Kishōtenketsu: 4-act story structure found in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese storytelling, from centuries-old stories to modern manga and Nintendo video games
- Robleto: style of traditional Nicaraguan storytelling, which includes a “line of repetition” tying a character’s many journeys within the story together
- Daisy-Chain Plot: story follows single object or idea with no central character
- Fanfiction “Fluff”: zero-conflict/angst stories focusing on character interactions
- Oral Storytelling: often emphases a moral message and not conflict
- Rashomon-Style Plot: repeating events from different perspectives
Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers