Many authors and people in the publishing industry claim that a story is not a story without a hero and a villain. I disagree.
The thinking behind this claim is that opposing sides create conflict which keeps the reader’s interest. Suspense builds toward the resolution of the conflict. Historically, opposing sides have been between good and evil or a hero and a villain. However, I don’t think a hero or a villain is always necessary to make a story. Nor, is good and evil needed.
To make a story, something needs to happen. At least one character should exhibit some type of change that does not come from facing an enemy. A scene, environment, or events can create challenges that make a character become a better or worse person. Yet, writing this way can be difficult for writers.
Many writers find it easier and simpler to create a hero and a villain where the boundaries are well defined and the conflict is clear. Such as in the Hero’s Journey. Except, this can lead to flat characters who have no complexity, deep emotion, or distinct personality.
Flat characters are clichés who stay within the boundaries of what the writer defines as good or evil. The story becomes more about chasing after something like an object or a goal than about who is doing the chasing. To avoid flat characters and give more dimension to the story, a writer could question the good and evil of the characters.
As an example, chase scenes and quests could change the hero into a villain and vice versa. Or, there could be no obvious hero or villain. Just average people confronted with challenges that makes them into something different than what they were at the story’s beginning.