The latest writerly ramble...
Everybody keeps saying you have to have conflict in a story. And then they just assume you know what that means. You'd think a guy saving the world from chaos would be sufficient conflict, but no. Guy vs. Chaos isn't conflict.
Now, order vs. chaos, that's conflict.
Why? Because who knows what the guy stands for.
Conflict, in it simplest, most reduced form, is the interplay between two ideas. Good vs. evil is a conflict -- although it's been used so often that it needs more to it to make a good story.
Innocence and experience. Integrity and loyalty. Love and honor.
The two ideas need to be connected somehow, but they don't need to be simply in opposition. There are any number of almost-mathematical operators that can be used to connect them, like:
Idea + idea (Add one idea to another idea -- add "wonder" to "maturity" -- without losing either)
Idea - idea (Remove an idea -- remove "selfishness" from "ambition")
Idea/idea (A dilemma -- a choice between "stability" and "renewal")
Idea-->idea (Change -- the move from "industrial" to "information")
And so on. It doesn't just have to be idea vs. idea, like an unending wresting match. So get your idea, run through situations in your head until you find one that matches up, put characters on the ideas like clothing on an ugly woman that nobody wants to see naked, and go!
--I've tried this with a couple of very-short stories, and it works okay. The stories seem pretty easy to get in to. The problem is that as of yet, my understanding is too simplistic, and I'm just not as thrilled by the idea of writing something that's longer than 1000 words as I am with my usual method of squeezing a cloud until water drips out (hint: the clouds get away most of the time).