Yep, it’s true. If you don’t have a conflict, you don’t have a story. You need a problem for your character(s) to solve, and if it doesn’t exist, what you have is a long narrative that nobody wants to read.
Think about every story you’ve ever read:
- Cinderella had to be back by midnight.
- Ulysses couldn’t get home
- Every mystery has to be solved
- The Billy Goats Gruff have to cross the bridge
- Romeo & Juliet can’t be together because their families are feuding
There’s always some obstacle that must be overcome.
So, if you’re a fiction writer, you must have a conflict. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be an external conflict, as illustrated above. It can be an internal conflict, such as in Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Her main character has to make a choice: Does he go along with the societal norm or does he follow his own convictions?
There’s always some kind of trouble because without the element of conflict and its resolution, your story wouldn’t be interesting. People want to read about overcoming obstacles, no matter what they are. Readers want to see outcomes — what will happen next.
So, come up with a few good conflicts and I’m guessing you’re going to have the basic makings of some very good stories.