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Conflict in Picture Books: If Your Story Doesn’t Have It, It’s Not a Story

Don’t write a children's picture book without it. In fact, build your story around it and watch readers appreciate your story from start to finish.

Yes, children’s picture books need conflicts.

It's fair to say that adult fiction is filled with all sorts of conflicts that draw readers in. Yet, for some reason, “conflict” sounds harsh and negative (and oftentimes odd) when the correlation between children's picture books and conflicts is discussed. But the reality is that the conflict is the basis of the story — and it’s a must in children’s picture books, too. Here’s why.

Readers Love Conflict

Conflict is “the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction.” In other words, conflict is the obstacle or issue the main character experiences or encounters in a story. And when readers realize that the main character is faced with an obstacle or issue, they are encouraged to keep reading. Therefore, without a conflict, there is no story.

There are “slice of life” picture books which are stories that, in many instances, do not include a plot or conflict and instead show characters performing everyday life activities. But it is always best to include a conflict in your story. Simply put, the conflict is the reason people read the story.

How To Use Conflicts In A Story

While conflicts draw readers in, they can also allow authors to do the following:

Provide opportunities to create action scenes

Who doesn’t like action? Young readers love to see characters doing something with their conflicts or experiences, and this is where authors can shine. Based on the conflict, write scenes using strong action verbs (I talk more about this in my online course) to show your main characters moving toward or conquering their conflict. Doing so can add excitement and suspense to the story.

Show readers how they might be able to solve similar problems

Young readers may see how the main character is dealing with a similar conflict they are currently experiencing. Therefore, it’s super important to be descriptive and clearly show how the main character solves or defeats the conflict.

Provide opportunities to show the main character’s flaw(s), which helps with relatability

Every main character should have a flaw (and I talk more about this in the same online course.) Readers like to read about characters who are like them, and everyone has a flaw. So, creating a conflict can also highlight your main character’s flaw(s), which could increase relatability and ultimately, engagement.

Visit to get more writing tips and strategies on writing children’s picture books!

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