Fiction Has No Room for Comfort?

I think that every novel I have ever read has given me a feeling of tension. Every chapter, at least in most cases, has had some kind of conflict. I simply cannot recall a relaxing book.

In a comfortable, relaxing book, nothing really happens. In the genres I read, there’s always a sense of danger, tension, or friction. Failure is catastrophic. Death is a great possibility. I wouldn’t say there’s always conflict, though.

The beginning of a book will occasionally start out happily, but conflict comes very soon. Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are a couple examples. But usually, books start in the middle of conflict.

The ending is usually the only place in a novel that is calm and relaxing. The danger has passed and the conflict resolved. I find that’s usually true, unless it’s part of a series or trilogy.

What do you think of this? Is conflict always necessary? Have you ever read a novel that’s mostly free of conflict? Looking forward to your comments.

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12 thoughts on “Fiction Has No Room for Comfort?”

    1. Yeah, I think so. Some have commented that they’ve read books that are completely comfortable, but I think there is some kind of tension, even it’s only a little.

  1. I, too, prefer to read (and write) stories in which the stakes are life and death, or at least happiness or misery and that is achieved with conflict. I’ve read novels in which are the slice-of-life vignette style in which there is little conflict or at least little conflict which interests me but they are out there and some people like them – they’re usually considered “literary” and win awards hehe!
    When I was living in Thailand and struggling a little with depression, I saw a psych who asked why I couldn’t write “happy stories” rather than ones which required I embody characters in such distress. I tried to explain that there is no story without conflict but it was a difficult task speaking with a Thai Buddhist who was the most serene man I ever met and who seemed to have the crazy idea that I should put my mental health before my writing 🙂

    1. You get a very serious Buddhist, and you’re bound to get questions like that. Their entire religion is about bringing peace to your inner self and to do no harm to anyone or anything. I can see how they wonder why conflict is needed at all.

  2. I can’t think of a single book I’ve read that doesn’t have tension or some form of suspense. Maybe the dictionary! But even that has ‘tension’ in it! 🙂

    1. Yes, the dictionary does have tension! But even the most sedate book has at least a little tension, even if it is just an argument or someone crying because of a stressful situation.

  3. A book does not have to be free of conflict to be comforting. Alexander McCall Smith’s “Ladies’ Detective Agency” book series, to me, is a classic example of books that leave you with a feeling of comfort and that all is right with the world, despite having conflict and plenty of moments of tension.

    1. Well, by having no comfort, I meant the moments of tension. Those are not comfortable. But I have read books that I feel comfortable reading despite the conflict.

  4. Hmmm. I read one recently that was really good, but involved very little conflict. A girl from NYC goes to stay in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia because she was getting into the “wrong crowd” in NYC. Her time in Cape Breton was spent with her grandmother. While there were a few arguments, there really wasn’t any major conflict. It was mostly about the transition of a young girl from trouble maker to the straight and narrow.

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