Interesting here about how an external element can contrast with the main plot without it being conflictual.
It also reminds me of something Scott McCloud talks about in his book ‘Understanding Comics’.
Focusing on the progress of time in a story rather than on plot itself, he talks about the ‘closure’ we have to make in our minds between one comic frame and the next. For anyone who’s not read it, he shows how most frame to frame transitions in standard comics are from one moment to another moment or one action to another action, scene to scene or subject to subject.
There’s also a less common transition, which is becoming more common he says to the influence of Japanese Manga on western comics; from one aspect to another aspect - of a place, an idea or a mood, or a person.
This type of progression which could be described as the the wandering eye, bypasses the idea of time. It slows plot progress down in fact - being more contemplative and atmospheric.
You could say this is equivalent to a descriptive passage in fiction writing but descriptive passages can be heavy unless they jump across contrasting elements.
The idea of plotting a character who struggles with a problem and finaly wins through is also an accepted and much taught plot formula for children’s picture books.
Yet one of the reasons I love Margaret Wise Brown’s ‘Goodnight Moon’ - a classic US picturebook from the 1950s - is that there is no conflict. It’s a wandering eye across a room - a kind of litany. Yet it is not boring. There’s an ‘old lady whispering hush’ and ’bowl full of mush’ in it, for starters!
The non-conflictual plot implies a quieter story. Children’s publishers sometimes tell us that “quiet” books aren’t publishable now - they simply can’t compete, they don’t shout out from the shelves in bookstores.
Yet what’s there to listen to when everyone’s shouting? We need contrast - surprising, unexpected elements - to crop up on shelves too. So let’s make room for quiet, less conflictual, more contemplative contemporary works for kids too!