Reply To: Conflict and the End of Fiction

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Taylor Clogston


You don’t think conflict would it improve it, and yet you haven’t read a good story without it? Kinda talking out of both sides of one’s mouth with those statements. xD

You’re case studies were fine and valid, but I would argue that even they had an element of conflict. Maybe I’ll read one in its entirety to find out sometime. 🙂

I’m really not communicating well, because it still sounds like you’re responding as though I’m arguing for stories with literally not a speck of conflict at all, which isn’t my intention.

My perception is that you’re looking at the issue from a binary perspective, that either conflict is or is not present, and that my case studies fall into the “has conflict” binary because, obviously, conflict is present in each of them.

I argue from the perspective of a gradient, with tone poem at one end (literally no conflict, something likely neither of us would think of as a story) and soap opera at the other (every imaginable permutation of conflict evoked among the characters).

I argue you can get extremely close to the first side of the spectrum while still having a story very worth reading.

It’s clear we have different narratologies as to what should be called a story to begin with, so I’ll bow out of that point and even concede, for the sake of this argument, that we can assume “needs at least a little conflict to qualify as a story.”

Since my good faith is on the line regarding the dentist stories, I’ll be really nitpicky about it:

You don’t think conflict would it improve it, and yet you haven’t read a good story without it?

Cooking analogies work great for writing, and this is a great opportunity for one. We can make an analogy with your dentist stories as soup and conflict as salt.

Pouring salt into a soup won’t necessarily make it taste good, but I’ve never had a great soup without at least a little salt. There are many dishes, especially ones focusing on texture and mouthfeel and aroma, for which a minimum threshold of salt is needed to maximize the effect, it doesn’t rely on salt to taste good like certain junk foods do (though I don’t mean that as a value judgment against conflict-focused stories by analogy). Adding lots of salt is not the secret to good cooking, but it’s so useful that all cooking benefits from at least a bit of it.

It’s nowhere near a perfect analogy, but hopefully it shows my intended nuance =P

"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

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