83 votes
Accepted

How to write a story without conflict, like "My Neighbour Totoro"?

There is definitely conflict, in the sense of narrative conflict, in My Neighbor Totoro. Sickness (with possible death) counts, whether it's resolved through any action of any characters or not. ...
  • 1,218
58 votes

How to write a story without conflict, like "My Neighbour Totoro"?

My Neighbor Totoro makes heavy use of Kishōtenketsu: Kishōtenketsu (起承転結) describes the structure and development of classic Chinese, Korean and Japanese narratives...The first Chinese character ...
29 votes
Accepted

The problem of the throwaway boyfriend

If you don't have some readers disappointed by the breakup, you haven't done justice to the "throwaway" boyfriend The problem appears to be that you want the initial boyfriend to BE a throwaway ...
  • 7,975
27 votes

Why would a character's parents allow them to go on a lethal quest?

I'm not sure about the general case, but in your specific case, it's worth noting that thievery is a pretty dangerous profession in its own right: There's obviously the threat of being caught by law ...
  • 9,861
26 votes

Is it a good idea to make the actions of my antagonist reasonable?

This is a great idea, but keep one important thing in mind. First of all, there's absolutely nothing wrong with making an antagonist sympathetic, reasonable and likable. If anything, it's good writing!...
  • 8,672
21 votes

Resolving moral conflict

You're saying you've written yourself into a corner. You appear to have to options, and you don't like either. You're forgetting: you are the writer. You are god. Your story is not set in stone, your ...
16 votes
Accepted

How do I balance immature levity and flaws and character growth?

This is a big, important question. After all characters must be distinct and unique or else they are no longer characters, but rather bland, amorphous machines whose actions can only be explained by a ...
  • 1,766
13 votes

Character crisis for a Science Hero?

For what it's worth, I am a professor in CS and a mathematician, and I've published in peer-reviewed academic journals original work in the field of statistics, and worked extensively in AI. her ...
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13 votes
Accepted

Does a story require a villain to succeed?

There's a school of thought that every scene must have conflict, that every scene needs an antagonist. This idea is different than every scene needing a villain. A villain is usually an antagonist, ...
  • 23.7k
13 votes

Why would a character's parents allow them to go on a lethal quest?

I think you’ve answered your own question: “she wants to go to give her family name a better reputation.” This could be her parents’ motivation as well. Going on a quest could be a once-in-a-lifetime ...
12 votes

The problem of the throwaway boyfriend

You've suggested that the particulars of their separation don't matter, but it is specifically those particulars that hold the opportunity to sow doubt and hope into the otherwise obvious path. Amp ...
  • 10.8k
12 votes

The problem of the throwaway boyfriend

Provide multiple possible resolutions From a Doylist perspective, of course they're going to break up. From the beginning, a long-distance relationship isn't very interesting - having the MC meet ...
11 votes

How to write a story without conflict, like "My Neighbour Totoro"?

The first paragraph of the plot summary for the example you've given suggests there are at least two forms of emotional conflict in the material. The mother's illness, the strangeness of a new place. ...
  • 10k
11 votes
Accepted

Dangers of being sympathetic to the killer

What are the dangers of painting a sympathetic view of the killer through the family of the killer’s perspective and in seeing the obvious interior dysfunction of the killer by seeing inside his mind? ...
  • 95.1k
9 votes

Why does the villain always win right before the hero defeats him?

It's an attempt to build tension to the maximum possible. The villain has won. Oh no. Much tension. Will Hero be able to get out of this? How will Hero ever get out of this? The author is ...
  • 6,453
9 votes

Why would a character's parents allow them to go on a lethal quest?

"What would be a reason why her parents would allow her to go on this long, dangerous journey, with some random person they just met?" They believe they raised her well, and they trust her ...
  • 2,922
8 votes

How to write a story without conflict, like "My Neighbour Totoro"?

Remember back to elementary school. There are three kinds of stories. Man vs. Man (Let's call this Capt. America vs. Iron Man) Man vs. Nature (How about The Perfect Storm or Alive) Man vs. Self (...
  • 411
8 votes

How to write a story without conflict, like "My Neighbour Totoro"?

The answer to your base question is subtext... Give the audience or reader something to chew on and make it enjoyable or terrifying or whatever... but in some way interesting... and some people will ...
  • 240
8 votes
Accepted

What could be done to generate and maintain reader interest in plots without a lot of conflict / tension?

Conflict does not have to be grand, and the stakes do not have to be enormous. Consider a romance, like "When Harry Met Sally" or "Sleepless In Seattle" or "You've Got Mail". I'm not saying you should ...
  • 95.1k
8 votes

Does a story require a villain to succeed?

Traditionally, people have referred to four different types of conflict that can animate a narrative. Sexist language aside, these classifications can be quite helpful: Person versus person - Your ...
8 votes

How do I write gray vs grey stories?

Remember two things: "no man is all of one stripe" meaning that people are always multi-faceted, villains who seemingly care only for power still love their children and pacifists who wouldn't raise ...
  • 10k
7 votes

Why does the villain always win right before the hero defeats him?

Try to think of this not as a mere means to create suspense, but in terms of character development: Every story is about change. The Three Act structure provides a suitable framework to illustrate ...
  • 1,794
7 votes
Accepted

How to write a strong villain who isn't really present?

Well let's look at this from the perspective of the Generals: Whilst this object that could turn the tide of the war is obviously important, it might turn out to just be rumor, or might end up being ...
  • 5,200
7 votes

Can the main conflict be the inner conflict?

It depends on the genre and what you're trying to achieve, but it's certainly an accepted literary tool. The good ol' Man vs Self conflict. It'll almost certainly result in a character-driven novel, ...
  • 12.8k
7 votes

Conflict and antagonist in a certain subtype of erotic novels

(1) from the first desire to consummation or (2) from loveless sex to romantic love or (3) from a lack of sexual experience to sexual empowerment – what can cause conflict? I think ...
  • 95.1k

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