You cannot have a story without conflict. I’m not talking about big battle set-pieces or epic arguemnts, necessarily, but of conflict in genereal. Very simply, to have a story, a character needs to want something, and something else needs to get in their way.
How much freedom does that give the author? How much freedom does that give the reader? As a reader, no matter what your tastes, there will be a type of conflict to suit you. Romance usually feaures conflict between desire and practicality. Fantasy can feature conflict between anything and anything else.
The best stories usually have two layers of conflict though. They have the personal conflict effecting the characters – this is what makes us root for them (or not!). Then there’s a bigger conflict laid over the top of that. Surviving the apocalypse. Fighting the oppressive regime. Taking your pervy boss to court. Keeping the farm. Something big, somehting where the stakes are even higher than the small conflict.
The brilliant authors, the ones we remember, tie those conflicts together and make them mirror each other. The girl surviving the apocalypse at all costs finds a stash of food and weapons – but there’s a village she knows of that needs it. If she gives it up, she might die, if she doesn’t they WILL die. Complicating matter, she wants to bone one of the men in that village, and her feelings make her weak… Tha’s shit, but do you see? How combining two or more conflicts make a book deeper, a story more engrossing?
My favourite books in the whole wide world do that.
It dissapoints me when I read a book with little or no inner conflict. Where the characters are always right and don’t change, and where their fighting for things always comes right after an appropriate amount of struggle. It feels weak. It feels pointless.
Make your characters work for it. Make them struggle. Make them weep and laugh and strive and hate and love and change.