Reply To: Conflict and the End of Fiction

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Noah Cochran


Thanks for tagging me in Taylor. 🙂

What I hope I’ve showed is that there is more to storytelling than conflict. Moreover, a story can be worth consuming without being driven at every turn by conflict.

First off, I want to say that those to statements in your conclusion (quoted above), I agree with. I have also heard all the phrase “when in doubt, add more conflict,” and one of my favorite booktubers (Abbie Emmons) who has loads of great content on story craft, is always talking about adding more and more conflict. Here’s the thing, I agree with them, but this has never made me think that story is only about conflict. Thus, your comment about storytelling being more than conflict is absolutely true, but I don’t know of many people that would disagree with that statement. I also agree with the second statement, that of a story not needing to be drive at every turn by conflict, but I will say that a story needs a central conflict/contrast to develop the protagonist and plot. With no conflict and internal conflict, there are no important decisions to be made, and thus your protagonist and plot will be quite flat and shallow.

You made many comments in the essay about books that are just about human experience, and using a story to create shared experience. You gave examples of how eastern structure and some western authors use this concept of relying on shared experience and human experience. While I don’t debate any of those points, I would argue that human experience is full of conflict, and no matter what experience one is sharing, it should have a central conflict. It can be as simple as discovering some philosophical question or attempting to prove oneself to their love interest, it doesn’t have to be some big epic villain’s plan or massive character flaw, it can be simple, and yet central to the story at the same time.

As for the argument that stories  can be more about the beauty of prose and the sensation of being transported, that is true, but that is more in the genre of poetry and literary focused stories than the telling of a human story and the adventures they go on. I have not read anything by Rothfuss (I have problems with him), but I do know quite a bit about his work, and to be candid, there is plenty of conflict. True, he is known for exceptional prose, but that doesn’t take away from the conflict the main character goes through in his life. Again, human experience is nearly equivalent to conflict, if written correctly. To anticipate a rebuttal, I will say that writing human experience can be void of conflict. I could write a story about a man going to the dentist, and everything goes well, but it would be quite boring. I could also write a story about a man going to the dentist who runs into much conflict, that could be interesting.

I enjoyed reading the essay, Taylor, you obviously have extensive knowledge on the subject of storycraft. 🙂

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