Conflict, angst, suffering, pain, and defeat, these are viewed as negatives by most people. But it is these very things, and their cousins that make literature worth reading.
If a character has a namby-pamby Disneyland life where everything is happiness and roses, readers quickly lose interest (even in Disney characters). On the other hand when characters face difficulty, reader’s interest is peaked. It is how the character deals with and survives the adversity that makes the reading interesting.
Interestingly, existential psychology suggests that suffering is a necessary part of human growth. Without suffering people cannot be authentic and they cannot reach their full potential. So in the field of writing, when we pose great difficulty for our characters, the more authentic they can seem to our readers, especially if we hit the mark for how they work through the suffering.
Think about Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. If Santiago had a pleasant day of fishing and brought home a boat load of fish, it wouldn’t have been a stirring story. Santiago has been unlucky for 84 days. He hasn’t caught a fish. He is suffering from the worst form of unluckiness – salao. Yet, he persevered. He finally catches a fish and struggles with him. He identifies with the fish, calling him ‘brother.’
He succeeds in catching a fish, only to be tormented by sharks. The sharks take his victory from him and he returns home where he dreams of his childhood.
So, it is easy to see that the struggle is the vehicle that carries the reader’s interest through the book.
This points out to me the importance of knowing your characters. If you have developed a character and understand their (imagined) background, you have a better chance of describing with they do with conflict in a sensible way. Remember, the more realistic, the more likely the reader is to identify with what you are saying and the more likely they will stay with your story to the end.