Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Upping the Stakes

Last night, I did something that I haven’t done in quite a while. I spent the entire evening reading a book.

I used to read for enjoyment all the time and still do on occasion, though it’s usually novellas. You know, doesn’t take as long. But I dug through my boxes of books that I got at conference this summer and picked one to read.

It was a sweet love story and I enjoyed the characters. But there was something I noticed. There was really no conflict. It was a contemporary novel that basically followed the meet and subsequent relationship of these two people up until they got engaged. There was no reason for them not to get together/stay together.

I mention this because as a writer, conflict is touted in just about every craft book I’ve read (and oh, have I read a lot). Upping the stakes. Story is conflict. If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about.

So, here’s the question. As a reader, do you need conflict? I know it doesn’t have to save-the-world stakes in every book, but do you want some internal conflict, at least? Or can you be satisfied with just the sweet story of a courtship?

For me, I need a little conflict. I kept reading last night, waiting for it, so in the end, it was not a wholly satisfying read. Could it be that because I’m a writer and expected a conflict, that I ruined the story for myself? Would I have noticed the lack of conflict and just enjoyed the story anyway if I haven’t studied the writing craft for years?

Actually, I think I can answer that for myself. I have read books by a particular author that have no inherent conflict. And I enjoyed them. Kinda. I had the same reaction to her as I did to the book last night. It was a nice story, but didn’t really satisfy that itch inside for a great story.

How about you? Ever read a book without any conflict? What did you think of it? What’s your opinion?


Danielle said...

It doesn't seem right to have no conflict in a story. Isn't that a major part of plot development?

Rachel Lynne said...

Without conflict there is no story. If I happen to pick up a book without conflict it gets chucked across the room. Even the daily lives of my 80 year old neighbors have conflict. It might be the conflict they face of a fixed income, kids that don't visit, one parent that coddles a grown child against the wishes of the other, a big corporation that is trying to force them off their land, ... the possibilities are endless. It is inherent in life and if a writer can't be bothered to find an exploit a conflict I can't be bothered to read it.
Makes me wonder how some books get published.

Shaiha said...

Without conflict there is no reason to grow. I would find a book without it pretty boring.

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