What’s The Most Important Element Of A Good Story?

Hello Readers!!! I’m back for a special edition blog posting to honor my awesome winners of the spring pictorial contest titled What Does This Picture Mean To Me? Below are the winners to this super fun contest – and then I want to explore details behind my blog title.

The Tower of Penitent Whores by Sean Flood
Read the winning entry

Armour Sincère by Maryanne Carey
Read the winning entry

Here We Are by Maya Johnson
Read the winning entry

Congratulations to all of my wonderful winning writers – and to ALL of you who submitted your outstanding work to Black Ink Contests. Thank you so very much!

Now, to address my blog post: What’s The Most Important Element Of A Good Story?

At the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, it was asked a group of writers, journalists, and producers to explain what makes a story great. The resounding response was:

“The most important element in a good story is conflict. It’s seeing two opposing forces collide with one another.”

OK – so my brain automatically went to Star Wars (and I’m not a big, geeky Star Wars fan, btw…but my mind still went there).  I mean – how much more opposing can one get than wimpy, squack-armed Anakin/Luke up against the broad and tough shoulders of Darth Vader?

Note the visible height difference
Note the visible height difference

Even the names have immediate and notable power differences: One name for Luke – – Two for Darth Vader.

And yet we writers have to take these comments under strict advisement!

The wheel has worked just fine since it’s invention in…ummmm…ok, I don’t know when the wheel was invented. But the point is why would any of us reinvent what is obviously the most important element of any good story?

Old popular titles along with the new all have one, surging element in common: CONFLICT.

From Gone With The Wind to Gone Girl, there is the relentless staging of characters in conflict.

Margaret Mitchell had several oppositions in her novel: North vs. South – Scarlett vs. Rhett – Scarlett vs. The World – even (in some points of the novel) Scarlett vs. Scarlett.


Gillian Flynn kept things a little neater in her opposing husband/wife team, Amy and Nick Dunne.

Still, there were the underlying conflicts between Nick and the police department; Amy and her parents, etc.

This element of conflict was one of the primary reasons Sean Flood, author of The Tower of Penitent Whores was awarded first place in the spring pictorial contest at Black Ink Contests. His story reveled in that element of conflict almost from the start, and the conflict didn’t stop until it reached a dramatic, fateful conclusion.

So how does the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival merge with one of the most iconic writers of all time, William Shakespeare?


From A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Romeo & Juliet, Will Shakespeare takes the resounding applause for climatic character conflict.


How much success would Romeo & Juliet have enjoyed if nobody cared if the kids got together? What if the parents encouraged their union? What if, instead of taking poison, they booked a cruise to Bora Bora and sailed off into the sunset together? Sounds mildly irritating and boring, doesn’t it?

If mention is made of “Conflict in the Middle East” or “Conflict on the Gaza Strip”, people feel a bit tense and uneasy. This kind of conflict is not the kind of conflict that readers – nor people at large – enjoy.

If you start talking about The Girl On The Train or Jane Steele – ah! Well, there’s some tasty readers club reading and on-line chatting material. Why? Because of the universal love of containable conflict – containable drama. Nothing too serious. Just characters in a book.


Of course, there’s several fiction books centralized in the Middle East and even the Gaza Strip, but they are fiction books. All well within the boundaries of a front cover and a back flap jacket. Safe.

So to sum it all up for you, if you’ve been working on a novel or perhaps you’ve even started fielding it to agents, make sure it has enough containable conflict to entice your agent, your readers, and (most important) you.


Until next time…stay safe, stay healthy, and stay creative!

Connie Irons is a novelist recently begat blogger. As a double GeminiThumbnail of my Blog Picture it’s hard to tie her down to one genre, but her favorites are well written horror and snarky memoirs (hail David Sedaris). When she’s not writing she’s mindlessly spoiling her beagle/basset puppy, Tucker, and evading payment on multiple loans from her fiancé.

Twitter: @connie_irons
Facebook: Fictional Black Ink
Email: Contact Me
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