Happily Ever After?

Writers are often told that every story must have some sort of conflict.  I teach this, in fact.  If we tell the story of Cinderella after the glass slipper fits, it’s all “happily ever after” which apparently is too dull.  But is it?  Let’s see if we can prove that all stories need conflict to make them interesting. 

Your challenge today is to write an interesting story that has no conflict or struggle.  Can you make it a good read?

24 responses to “Happily Ever After?

  1. A Prince of A Guy
    At 33, Prince Abud al Saudi lived a life of immense luxury. He had leased the entire top floor of the Ritz Hotel in London, and lived there ten months of the year. The other two months were spent in his homeland, tending to his family duties and meeting his country’s subjects.
    While in London, he would arrange for the finest tailors on Saville Row to come to his hotel rooms with their bolts of fine woolens and cloth. They would spend an entire day each month fitting the Prince for new shirts, suits, and the latest accessories. They would remove his old clothes, and as per the Prince’s instruction, donate them to various London charity groups. He also brought Henry Florsheim to his suite once a month to measure and fit a minimum of 20 pairs of shoes and boots. Again, his old footwear would be donated to charity.
    Whenever the Prince traveled around the City in his Golden Rolls Royce Cabriolet, he always made sure that all who served him, whether personal servant or a public waiter or clerk, were well compensated for any assistance they provided. It was common for the Prince for example, to hand his chauffeur of twenty years a ten-pound note each time he opened the car door, both for ingress and egress.
    He became well known for his generosity in all parts of the great City, and people of all strata strove to find a way to offer a service to the Prince. His six-four frame was an imposing sight on Regent Street every Wednesday, when the Prince would exit the enormous car and walk in and about all the high-end shops located there. Doormen scrambled to be the first to open a shop door for him, and receive the perfunctory five pound note from the Prince’s valet. His dark eyes showed a distinct kindness under his heavy eyebrows as he greeted the store owners who immediately snapped to attention whenever they spotted the great man in their establishments.
    Every edition of The London Times in the year 1935 had at least one mention of one of the City’s most interesting inhabitants. The Royal heir created a magnificent persona, and maintained it all through his long and generous life.

    • This guy was certainly a Charming Prince written by another Prince charming.

    • Okay. This is the happily-ever-after story that makes me think of the ending of “A Christmas Story” by Dickens where Scrooge becomes the finest gentleman old London had ever known. I think the details are what make it so pleasing.

      • Galelikethewind

        Ann – my “method” to create a story without conflict was to 1) To create an interesting character and 2) to put the character in an interesting setting and 3) provide interesting details through description ..
        The “muse” did the rest..thanks for your comments!

  2. Long live the Prince! You do a great job of creating an amazing picture of life without apparent conflict. I had no difficulty visualizing the world you painted in words. In fact, having once had a Saudi prince as a banking client, I can attest to the reality of what you describe. At the same time, I suspect that the reason I find the picture so interesting and compelling is that I can’t help asking myself, “How does he do it?” or “What did he have to overcome to achieve it?” I wonder if our minds, focused on finding hidden conflicts (which are key to avoiding danger and survival) are incapable of considering anything without looking for conflict? Bravo on a readable and believable scenario– and especially on being first out of the gate on a tough assignment.

  3. Ann, et al: It occurred to me that we are not the first person to identify this challenge.
    The Problem
    Deep within the sea, a molecule that would someday be labeled DNA joined with another molecule, RNA, their atoms fitting, jigsaw-puzzle like into one another by precise shape and natural proclivity. Each cell fit one other kind and only one other like hand and glove. When the RNA molecule drifted away moments later, the cells born away with it were arranged in a mirror image of the DNA molecular pattern. A few more seconds passed, and the RNA was surrounded by more amino acid building blocks, each finding its unique home alongside the unzipped RNA ladder. In the same instant that all the open spaces in the pattern were filled, the half-ladder fell away, matched with another and zipped up to form another working DNA molecule.
    Atom by atom, molecule by molecule, cell by cell, the parts, created in stellar furnaces and spread throughout the universe by cataclysmic novae, organized by size, shape, and physical attraction—one piece into another, one bit of information at a time, one inevitable click of the cosmic clock after another.
    After a few billion years had passed, the structure was huge and complex beyond anything that had ever existed before in any time or space. While the lives of individual cells in the seas continued as in the beginning, the chemical reproductive dance of DNA, RNA, surrounded by its pool of amino acids who were stag and looking for partners continued unabated. But by now the process included so many more blocks, so many more patterns, and multiple quadrillions of participants. The dance had no one to name it, but we would recognize it as Life.
    She studied Creation intently, and finally, like an eight-year old after an hour with his Lego set, sat back, a little tired, and sighed, “Much movement, no true novelty!” Unimaginably complex and beautiful as her process and all its supporting parts were, in the final analysis she couldn’t escape the inevitable conclusion: it was completely inevitable. “Predictable and boring!”
    She had really tried to be innovative in her approach. At the subatomic, quantum level, she had ensured that predictability was nearly impossible—only probabilistic. She was especially proud of her idea to include the possibility of occasional imperfections in the transmission of information from one molecule to another. That stroke of genius made possible the evolution of the process. But unless those probabilities became predictable at a macroscopic level, nothing would hold together. A world without conflict, full of peace, had seemed like such a perfect project for a heavenly afternoon, but she was beginning to think it was impossible.
    She was almost at the point of putting all the pieces back in the box and starting over, when a small, mustard-sized seed of divine inspiration lodged in her fertile imagination. “Wait a minute! What if I put a version of myself in the picture? What if I allowed a thread of my consciousness, unlimited by the life-process, to enter the machine and stir things up a bit? I wonder what would happen?”
    “Oh, it would certainly mean conflict, but it would banish boredom. And it would add something that is impossible without freedom– the capacity for love and creation.”
    With a dazzling smile that lit up the universe, she reached down and began to mold a piece of clay…

  4. I awoke at noon today and glanced about the kitchen. All the dishes from the previous night had been washed and put away by my personal sprite. The floor shined like marble, and the windows were crystal clear clean. She is fantastic.

    I was starving from getting twelve hours of solid, dream-filled, story-inspiring sleep, and I went directly to the refrigerator freezer. I selected a fresh half gallon of my favorite ice cream, Neapolitan, and sat down to watch the stock market on TV. My one stock, Glico, which I had bought for two-cents a share was trading at twenty-three dollars, it had gained ten percent value each day since buying it. I finished my ice cream want went to the scales in the bathroom. Hmm, I have lost another three pounds on my ice cream diet. Go Jeff!

    I turned off the TV and sorted out the mail which my letter carrier kindly lays on my reading table, except for the bills which she discards. I quit paying my bills years ago, and my credit is still perfect. The contest mail is beginning to bore me, I have won two Porsches this year so far, as well as a Caribbean cruise, first class, Captain’s table. It looks like three more publishers’ acceptance letters in the stack; I’ll get to them later.

    A splash sounds from the back yard pool. My friend Bambi and her twin sister Bimbi, both blonde, leggy and, well, perfect, are skinny dipping. “Don’t run, you might hurt myself” I yell to them. They laugh as they think I am the funniest man they have ever known. Actually I am, I have been on Leno three times, and turned down two additional appearances.

    Sorting the mail and watching the girls has toned my body to perfection. I ponder my next activity. Another half-gallon of ice cream, or the twins. Hmm……….

  5. A great read indeed, Jeff.. Particlarly for a guy. I like the way you left the vision of Bambi and Bimbi up to the reader..

  6. Thank you Gale.

    Two friends who have read this commented that I had failed in the task as I left the story with conflict, pondering whether to choose ice cream or choose the twins. Hmm, I am not sure making a choice between two desirables is much of a conflict, but just in case I offer the following amended last paragraph:

    Sorting the mail and watching the girls has toned my body to perfection. I ponder my next activity. Another half-gallon of ice cream, or the twins. The choice is clear. I need three spoons.

  7. It took me awhile to get the hang of this one. I appreciate your examples– they really helped me to understand the assignment better.

    Life for Marsha was a long, glorious journey that began with a first baby step into the arms of loving and caring parents, and led inevitably to her final destination. She was fortunate in that her upbringing was completely uneventful but totally sufficient in all physical and material ways. She was educated by personal instructors hired from the best sources. As an adult, her work paid well, was routine and both physically and mentally undemanding, and her working conditions optimal. She was spared the frustrations and demands of relationships because she found that her personality was complete without them, and she needed no one else to be totally satisfied with her life. Every day she counted her material blessings and every night she slept the sleep of the innocent. When she passed away at the ripe age of 95, the staff of the nursing home paused for a moment of silent meditation during their morning administrative meeting to honor her memory. She had never borrowed anything and never failed to pay a bill on time. The last dollar of her estate account exactly covered her final burial expenses.

  8. “What ya doing?” my older Brother, J.J. asked as he stood in the door of my bedroom.
    “Nothing.” I said
    “Well you look stupid.”
    “Well, you look stupider.” I sassed as he spun around to leave, nearly knocking over my 6- year old Sister, Chibby.
    Then Chib took her turn in my doorway, “What ya doing?” Her ability for original thought had not fully developed.
    “Nothing, I’m doing NOTHING….OK?” Then I heard my Mother’s voice,
    “What’s going on in there? I told you no fighting today. I mean it…No Fighting. Supper is almost ready, get washed up.”
    I clearly remember this scene as I look at a picture of my bedroom from 1960. I had just turned 8-years old a week before the photo was taken. My gifts that year were a blue and white blouse, a new baseball glove, a new bedspread and a feather duster. The feather duster was my Mother’s subtle reminder to keep my room clean.
    I was sitting on the floor leaning against the side of my bed, legs straight in front of me. Reggie, our collie was stretched out the full length along my right leg with his chin resting on the feather duster. He thought that was the best toy ever; his own bird on a stick. It was just after Thanksgiving and the aroma of turkey still linger in the air. It was just beginning to snow as a Johnny Mathis record played on the stereo in the living room.
    I remember thinking as I sat there looking out my window, “This is the best day of my life. Everybody is home, I have a new blue and green bedspread and a better baseball glove than my brother. Reggie is warm and we are going to have leftover turkey sandwiches for dinner.”
    Cherish the true beauty found in the minutia of life.

    • I really like the way you used dialog and the photograph to bring me to that bedroom in 1960. The sights, sounds, and smells did the rest. As usual, you nailed it.

    • To quote “Wayne’s World,”–I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

      This is the best happy story I’ve ever read. How do you do that? The opening dialogue sequence is priceless. The ending should be way too corny, but it’s not at all. It’s just right. Just right.

  9. I’m impressed by everyone’s contribution to what I personally found to be a very difficult task. If this assignment was intended to demonstrate how much easier it is to tell a story when there is some sense of conflict or problem solving involved, it certainly made that point with me. I found myself not even really being able to imagine a story-line that didn’t involve a problem of some sort. I think it is amazing that your creative juices managed to deliver the goods anyway and be beautiful and entertaining to boot. Thank you.

    • Ditto, Bob. I’m hesitating to try this one, and I thought it up! I hope to read more, and see what is possible when you write without the benefit of conflict and struggle.

  10. I enjoyed reading these. Here is my attempt.

    There were nine of us and we all turned out relatively fine. I guess that’s happily ever after. Did we have down times? Sure, but with a positive outlook and the gift of family we have been living happily. The oldest did not graduate from high school, but served some time in the Army in the 60’s and then went on to own his own business and is now happily retired in Idaho. The second is a retired preacher living in Monterey California. Our sister, the only girl, married a farmer and socked away plenty of money to enjoy grandchildren from her retirement community in Iowa. Dad use to say when aske how many children he had. “I have eight boys and each of them have a sister.” My twin brother and I went our separate ways, but enjoy family and friends from our respective communities. One of us settled in Central California and one in Central United States. My twin fixes commercial coffee machines and I try to fix teenagers. We most likely use similar techniques. The next boy enjoyed a full life being an English professor in Cleveland Ohio. Following that there is a successful doctor in San Antonio, a jack-of-all-trades and a successful business owner in Idaho.

    We gather every two years somewhere in the States and share stories and legends of growing up in Southern California in humble beginnings. The stories don’t change much, but as the memories fade we still enjoy each others company if we don’t venture into politics.

    • galelikethewind

      I am from a large family myself. Only 2 out of 5 kids survive today. You have been most fortunate. Liked the fact we got to know your family so well
      in so few words

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