In the margins, the writing teacher wrote: “Cute story so far, but where’s the conflict? C-”
The writer was my 11 year old, who had, during a timed fiction writing exercise, crafted a solid if derivative little tale of waking up one special morning to find it was his day to enter wizard school. He had details, description, authentic-sounding dialogue, two distinct characters, and a linear narrative arc that made sense. (No I didn’t help.) Alas, no “conflict.” Everything had gone right for his protagonist, who was able to read and understand the letter, find the supply store without knowing where it was, purchase his supplies and make it through the magical wall unscathed and just in time.
My little writer was glum.
“Why does there have to be a BIG conflict?” he asked.
I offered that conflict could be just another word for problem, obstacle, challenge or frustration and that perhaps it didn’t have to be huge – maybe the store could be closed, or he misjudges the place to jump through the wall and gets bruised, or his mother loses the letter right after it arrives…
“Oh, you mean like he wants to do something, but can’t! Or he tries something but it doesn’t work?” the kid said, grinning. “And then he has to figure something else out.”
“Okay, I get it now.”
All writing problems should be so easy to solve.