Iyashikei (癒し系) is Japanese for “healing”, a term used for anime and manga created with the specific purpose of having a healing or soothing effect on the audience. Works of this kind often involve alternative realities with little to no conflict, emphasizing nature, the mundane and the little delights in life.
It’s a pretty cool concept.
We’re often told conflict is a necessity in writing.
To give you an idea of how much we’re told this, when I googled “writing a book with no conflict”, the thing of text at the top of the google page reads this:
Writing a story without conflict
If by “good story” you mean an engaging story there’s no way to write it without some kind of obstacles that stand between the protagonist and his goal. These obstacles can be created by other people (conflict), himself (internal conflict) or forces of nature. No obstacles means no story.
Admittedly, if you click into the first results, it does acknowledge good stories don’t need conflict, but my point still stands, especially given the fact I was specifically searching for lack of conflict.
That a story couldn’t be good without conflict is something I believed for a long time. And I blame this mentality for the reason I usually don’t enjoy romances, the will they won’t they, the arguments that make it seem like they shouldn’t be together, the easily avoidable misunderstandings, ugh, it’s all so frustrating to me! (although there’s nothing wrong if you enjoy that, this isn’t me hating the genre, I have my own guilty pleasures that are just as bad if not worse).
So, when I started working on a prequel series for my book (nope, I will never shut up about this), featuring a queer relationship with little to no conflict, I hated this story. I hated the fact that there was barely any conflict or plot, it was just these two woman, dating, supporting and loving each other, it was writing letters and drinking coffee, going for walks and meeting a horse. Nothing interesting ever happened, and I couldn’t bring myself to make it interesting.
But for some reason, writing it made me feel good, writing about them laughing at each others jokes in the kitchen, writing about the taste of coffee and the pleasures of reading a book, it was so simple and relaxing and it felt wrong. It felt like I wasn’t writing what I was supposed to and I shouldn’t enjoy it and then I saw a post somewhere (I can’t remember, probably pinterest) and having this word to describe what I was doing.
It changed what I was doing.
Now I feel good about Love, Coffee and Dragons.
Is it my best work?
Not by a long shot.
Is it a nice change of pace that encourages me to take a break and pay more attention to the small things in life? Yeah.
And that’s what this post is, a reminder to enjoy the small things in life even if they maybe don’t make sense to everybody, and permission to write a conflict free story if that’s what you need right now.
Plenty of people enjoy Iyashikei, so there’s not reason for them not to enjoy yours. And if you haven’t ever watched Iyashikei, maybe go do that, you might find it a really cool experience.