How to Write a Story 101: Conflict

by Pamela Hodges | 54 comments

You desperately want to write a story. You carry a pad of paper with you in case you get an idea. You can't decide if your main character should have short hair or long hair. But for now, put aside what your character looks like and think about what they want.

In this post, we're going to look at how to write a story by focusing on one of the most important elements of any story: conflict.

How to Write a Story 101: Conflict in a Story

Every story has to have conflict. A story without conflict is boring. I don't want to read about how someone has it all together.

How do you write a good conflict of a story? What is conflict, anyway? And why do you even need it in your story? You probably hate fighting. So why would you want to write about it?

Please let me explain.

What is conflict?

Conflict could be when your mother wants you to set the table and you don't want to. Or conflict could be when you get your neck shaved and they want you to pay fifteen dollars and you only want to pay five dollars because they didn't shave your whole head.

Conflict brings together two opposing forces, the protagonist, one who struggles for, and the antagonist, one who struggles against, and then develops and resolves the struggles between these two forces.

What Do the Protagonist and Antagonist Have to Do With Conflict?

I always thought the protagonist was the good guy, and the antagonist was the bad guy. But you could have two bad guys who are fighting. However, who is the good guy if, for example, both characters are bank robbers?

The protagonist is the person struggling for something, and the antagonist is struggling against something.

Hint: If you can remember the meaning of the prefix it might help you remember what the two words mean: Pro means in favor of. Anti means against.

How to Write a Story: 2 Different Models

Good stories settle into two different models: the Accomplishment Story and the Decision Story. Depending on the type of story you're telling, the conflict in your story may look very different.

1. Accomplishment Story

In an Accomplishment Story, the protagonist is trying to achieve some goal against great opposition.

Here's an example of what an Accomplishment Story might look like:

Perhaps you are trying to convince your husband to let you rip up the carpet in the formal living room and turn it into a painting studio. Your husband is the antagonist; he is against you. You are the protagonist struggling to get your painting studio.

(P.S. I ripped up the carpet and won the conflict.)

2. Decision Story

In a Decision Story, the protagonist has a choice between two things, two courses of action, two sets of values.

Should the protagonist let her hair grow so she can donate it to make wigs for children with cancer, or should she shave off all of her hair and pay the fifteen dollars the hair salon was demanding when they shaved her neck?

That's an example of a Decision Story.

4 Principles of Fictional Conflict

If you want to know how to write a story that sings, you need to focus on writing better conflict. These four storytelling principles will help.

1. Conflict must be of obvious importance to the characters involved. If your conflict is whether or not the protagonist eats green beans or broccoli for dinner, make sure it is obvious why this is important to the character. 

2. The two opposing forces much be equal in strength. The conflict is developed and there will be suspense until the end. This kind of story drives me nuts (in a good way—mostly). I hate how you can never guess who will win. I want to know! Sometimes . . . well, most of the time . . . okay, all of the time, I peak ahead to see who wins the conflict. Then I go back and slowly finish the book.

3. Unity. Everything—conflict, character, theme, point of view—is functional, and related to the story's basic purpose. The conflict is logical in development.

4. Plausibility. Characters act and react to familiar principles of human behavior. The resolution of conflict must adhere to basic facts of existence. The people in your story can't regrow a leg if it gets cut off. (Unless your story's world follows its own rules, in which case you must go back to Principle #3 and make sure there's unity to those rules.)

How to Write a Story That Breaks the Rules

If you want to add conflict that does not follow the principles or models above, don't feel like you have to follow all of the rules. Just because you read something in a “textbook” (or writing blog) doesn't mean it is the only way to write.

Principles are just that, principles. They are not laws. Principles are not the double line in the middle of the highway that you cannot legally cross.

If you break a rule about storytelling you won't go to jail or get a traffic ticket. What could happen? Sure, your story might not make sense, but on the other hand, you may have written a story that is convincing and effective without following the principles.

Writing a story is like making homemade soup: you follow the recipe, do everything you're “supposed” to do, and then add a dash of your own spices and ingredients.

What will your story taste like when it's finished?

Do you tend to write Accomplishment Stories or Decision Stories—or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments section.


Write a story using one of the patterns of conflict mentioned above: an Accomplishment Story or a Decision Story (I hate being told what to do, so I wanted to let you have a choice). Write your story for fifteen minutes.

When your time is up, please post your practice in the comments section. I look forward to reading your stories.

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at


  1. Linda Strawn

    This is a great article. It shows that writing conflict is less complicated than most of us try to make it.

    • Pamela Hodges

      Thank you Linda,
      I hope this article helps you with your stories. Joe Bunting is such a great editor, he helps me sound brilliant.

    • Sherrie

      Great article. The crux of the story is the conflict, and I think that I missed that important element in some of my own stories. My 15 minute conflict:

      After I turned ten, Grampa let me pick up a few
      groceries on the way home while he waited in the car.

      “Money, Grampa. I’ve gotta pay.” He had
      handed me a bill and made me verify the amount before going in.

      “How much money you got there, eh?” Grampa
      would demand, and I had to tell him the value of the bill.

      “Well, did she give you the right change?
      Anybody cheat you today?” he would ask when I came back to the car.

      He had me
      read the receipt to him on my return, find the total, then calculate the
      correct change. At first, I cried from frustration. But after a couple of
      months, I counted back the correct change and announced with confidence, “Nope,
      Grampa. Nobody cheated me today.”

      Grampa’s brown eyes sparkled. Square black
      rimmed glasses topped with clip on sunshades rested precariously on his Roman
      nose. He left the sun shades flipped up except when driving, and his bushy eyebrows
      did pushups as he chuckled. A toothless smile and moist eyes, magnified through
      his glasses, betrayed his approval.
      A piece of a longer story. Accomplishment?

  2. NerdOfAllTrades

    I decided to get cute with your prompt.
    Sitting at his desk, he stared at the prompt until it blurred on the screen. He didn’t know how to proceed: should he write the Decision Story, or the Accomplishment Story?

    As he was trying to decide, the counter ticking down on his eggtimer app, the cat picked this moment. Its human had stopped typing – surely his attention was free now.

    “Mew!” the cat stated, breaking the writer out of his trance. His face flushed with irritation and strained with indecision, he swatted at the cat. “Not now! I’m busy!”

    The cat observed the thing flailing in the air: a toy! Its human wanted to play. Well, a cat must indulge its human from time to time. It made the appropriate response, as dictated by centuries of human-cat tradition.

    “OW!” cried the author, sucking at the scratch on his hand. Resolving to deal with the distraction, he grabbed a piece of string from the floor and hung it off the back of its chair. As he started typing again, he rocked his chair left and right, causing the string to swing back and forth. Suitably distracted, the cat paid no more attention to its human.

    The clock continued to tick down, and he still hadn’t decided. Until a moment ago, he had been leaning towards writing an Accomplishment Story, but now, he felt like he should write a Decision Story again. However, he was down to ten minutes, and how can you even begin to write a story without knowing what kind of story to write?

    The dangling thing had stopped moving – the human must want to play using some other toy. It spotted its favourite toy, bouncing repeatedly against the ground. Now we’re talking!

    Tapping his foot against the floor, the writer had started to write the beginning of a story, which, depending on his mood, could either become an Accomplishment Story or a Decision story. However, he had only written a few paragraphs before he noticed an eerie calmness – the cat had stopped scratching at the string. He started to look around, and the cat, seized by the same primal urge a lion feels when attacking a gazelle, undiluted even through years of domestication, chose that moment to pounce.

    A-ha! The cat seized its prey, dug its claws in deep, and began chewing on a piece that stuck out a bit.

    The author bit back a cry as the cat wrapped itself around his foot. He tried to rub the cat’s stomach using his foot, thinking of how he’d heard that cats do not like that, but the feline urge to play was too strong, and it only grabbed tighter.

    Frustrated past the point of tolerance, the writer picked up his cat, placed him down outside of the office, and then closed the door behind him, ignoring the plaintive mews which issued from the other side.

    The cat, seeing that its attempts to be cute were not gaining it readmittance, decided to retreat down the stairs and find something to eat. The human has won the game, I see. He will not be so lucky next time. No, next time, victory shall be mine!

    Finally free of distractions, but desparately short on time, the writer made his decision. He finished pumping out the words, his fingertips flying across the keys of his keyboard as he tried to add detail to the last few paragraphs.

    He must succeed! He must write a story – he had pledged to reply to every writing prompt – he would not fail due to the efforts of a cat!

    In the nick of time, he finished the tale, satisfied with his effort and his decision.

    • Christine

      Congratulations on your effort with this prompt; it is a cute story. Most cat owners can relate to this type of conflict. Glad to see he finally got his story written; you’ll have to post that tomorrow. 🙂

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      Thanks for the feedback!
      Unfortunately, while the behaviour of the cat is not fictional, the story was; I have learned to keep the door closed when writing. There is no other story. However, I do plan to post a response to the next prompt, whatever it may be.
      Thanks again!

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Nerd of all Trades,
      Your story was like a story within a story. It was like the writer had a conflict to decide what to write, and the cat has their own conflict, attacking the prey.
      And you did get cute with the prompt. 🙂 I love cat stories. It was interesting that you put the object attacked from the cats perspective. We knew it was a foot, but the cat didn’t.

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      Thanks for the feedback, Pamela!
      You’ve given me an interesting perspective: I hadn’t thought of the cat as a protagonist in its own right. I wonder how I’d give the cat some sort of victory. It’s difficult to do so without having the cat successfully distract the writer, and thus having the recursive nature of the story fall apart.
      Thank you for reading!

    • Thomas Furmato

      Awesome. I obviously didn’t read the other attempts before sitting down to write mine. It did seem like an obvious choice of topics, and I’m surprised everyone didn’t do it. Good job on your version.

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      Thanks, Thomas. I enjoyed your version as well.
      Your story did a much better job of showing the stakes involved than mine did: it was clear throughout your story why replying to the writing prompt was important to the writer. Re-reading mine, I only established the reason in passing, near the end of the story.
      Thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

    • Thomas Furmato

      I’m just happy that we both have great minds! ; )

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      It’s better than the alternative!

  3. alan rogers

    The sun set crisp in
    the sky giving a finality to a blindingly hot day. Janny Jo looked
    at the appointment card, Friday at 9:45am, the Bilford Building,
    appointment set with Dr. Sate. She paced the floor, plodding and
    looking out the window of her high rise, low rent apartment. She dry
    swallowed another pain pill as her stomach groaned in stern argument
    to her pacing. Walking to the
    round side table by her small thatched chair she picked up an
    envelope and re-read the letter,
    “Dear Ms. Trablehorn, We are
    pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a final
    applicant for the final interview, this does not necessarily
    guarantee that you will be given the position…”
    She placed the
    letter back in the envelope, carefully creasing the folds so that it
    fit snugly into the cream colored envelope, with it’s stark blue ink
    and beautifully designed font. Jalinger Company along with it’s
    address was on the upper left hand corner. She had read and re-read
    the letter to make sure of the time, she had taken out pencil and
    paper from her top dresser drawer and copied it line for line to make
    sure she was reading it right. The time for her interview, the time
    she was expected to be at the Jalinger Company for this second and
    last interview for a possible job was this Friday, at 9:30am.

    There was no
    guarantee she would get the job, it was just the last interview.
    There would be other applicants. She was elated that she got through
    the initial interview. She was nervous and not at all sure of
    herself. She had grimaced a lot as she had not been able to take a
    pain pill that morning since she wanted to be completely coherent.

    But she needed to
    get to the doctor and get the results of her tests. She had been to
    multiple doctors over the last 7 months. Her insurance was running
    out of patience with her and she was desperate to find out what was
    wrong with her. She could not get the results over the phone or in
    the mail, she had asked. Nor could she pick them up at a later time.
    She was seeing a top specialist that had taken a lot of convincing
    to get into see and they would not reschedule her, they would have to
    set her up a new appointment to give her the results and who knew how
    long that would take. It had taken 5 weeks to get this appointment

    She looked at the
    night creeping onto the edges of her window. She went to her kitchen
    counter, picked up some tea to put on to boil and placed the
    appointment card in the trash. She got out the iron and the ironing

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      That was great, Alan. I especially liked how detailed you were in describing the effects of the illness, the pain pills, the steps she had gone through to get it treated, her desperation to find the cause.
      The only issue with giving that much detail to the illness is that it throws into stark contrast how little you say about the job. You give the company a name, and I get the impression of a professional, probably very well-funded company, with a rigorous selection process.
      The problem is, after all of that time spent describing this painful, rare, frustrating mystery illness, I have no idea why she chose a chance at a job over a chance at getting her condition diagnosed. Has she always dreamed of working at Jalinger? Has she been unemployed for long? Does she need new employment to keep her health insurance? Does she just not expect the doctor to succeed, after so many others failed?
      Once again, you showed someone struggling with a dilemma very well, but I just wish you had given us an indication of what getting that position would mean to her (other than, obviously, meaning more to her than her health).

    • alan rogers

      Quite right NOAT, I should have spread out the details a little more so as to expand why she wanted the job and why this was such an important decision, that would have added more weight to the choice…thanks for the feedback!

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      No problem! That’s what we’re all here for!

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Alan Rogers,
      Your story is full of very crisp details, that clearly show and not tell how she is feeling.
      She dry swallowed the pill,
      I could tell the job was important to her, as she carefully creased the folds, and she hand copied the letter.
      She is in a low rent apartment, we know she needs the job.
      Pacing the floor shows she is nervous.
      There are two sentences here you tell me something about her, and not show. I suggest adding more details here.
      “She was elated that she got through
      the initial interview. She was nervous and not at all sure of

  4. Berle

    Connie enjoyed Eric’s company and looked forward to meeting him for dinners, at gallery openings, and on random Saturday mornings at the Old Dominion Farmer’s Market. The vendors had begun ‘some talk’ about the handsome couple that seemed to glide into and away from each other while shopping at each vendor’s stall.
    Connie, a laid back, almost sixty-ish boho beauty, lived alone for many years after her daughter left to begin her career as an educator for manufacturers of hair care products. Connie felt pangs of loneliness at times, but recently Eric wanted to spend more and more time with Connie. Eric was a sensitive, yet fiery tempered man who had begun to show signs of jealously after Connie seduced him in her new sewing studio.

    • Pamela Hodges

      Good Morning Berle,
      I would love to know more about Connie and Eric. Lets start with Connie, what does she want? Is she trying to find purpose in life after her daughter left? We know she likes to spend time with Eric.
      We know she is lonely.
      Is the conflict that she doesn’t want to spend more time with Eric? But she is lonely?
      What does lonely look like? What does Connie do when she feels lonely? Can you thing of some ways to show that.
      The conflict becomes more real, or I will care more for Connie if I see how she is feeling.
      Oh, and the fun part. You can decide how long Connie’s hair is. Mine is short now, so I often let my characters have long hair.

    • Berle

      June 14, 2015

      Hi. Pamela! ( I did not expect to be contacted about my 15-minute assignment! LOL!)

      I am an aspiring writer, who has been shaping Connie and Eric in my head for years. I wanted to create a ‘want-to-know more’ feeling, but suppose I need to convey that in 15-minutes, yes?

      Connie is celibate.

      I would love to know more about Connie and Eric. Lets start with
      Connie, what does she want?

      The past couple of years, Connie
      has felt the tremors of desiring a relationship, but is fearful that her
      independence and creativity will be challenged. She now wants to share herself
      with someone who understands the life of focused energy, and work. She also wants to share the joys, with that
      ‘chosen one ‘ that many of her well-known parties have meant to friends, family
      and colleagues, as well as sharing life together. Many attendees of her parties have found
      themselves blissfully matched with their life partners at Connie’s events. She loves having a few parties during the year
      to celebrate the good fortunes of her circle of friends; and loves feeling the closeness , the reason for the celebrations, along with
      the ‘village’ support given to whatever the endeavors that have brought about
      the successes of her special friends.

      Is she trying to find purpose in life after her daughter left? We
      know she likes to spend time with Eric.

      The past decade of narrow focus
      and dedication to her fashion accessories business catapulted her into
      boutiques, such as ‘Consuelo Lane’, ‘Tortega Raynal’, and most recently, an
      exclusive 5 year- photo contract with ‘Tree Naturals’. All of which have been lucrative endeavors,
      enabling Connie to enjoy the fruits of her labor, and not be as driven as has
      been the case over the past decade. The drive that fueled her creativity always
      seemed to be more prominent when she was celibate. It was easy to rationalize that more time,
      energy and focus could make any dream come to fruition, but time after time,
      Connie witnessed this phenomenon present itself.

      We know she is lonely.

      Is the conflict that she doesn’t want to spend more time with Eric?
      But she is lonely?

      She manages her loneliness with
      work. She rarely verbalizes it. The
      loneliness is the same feeling she used to have as an only child wishing for siblings. The desire for a sister or brother was long gone, but now, the desire for a male presence, was what Connie wanted. She wants to hear a man’s voice, she wants to hear him laughing with his buddies or
      asking her about dinner plans or Saturday afternoon plans. She wants to watch
      him perform mundane chores around the house without him knowing she was
      watching. Connie also want him to see her desire for him in her eyes; to sense her body language across a room of people, to know instantly that she wants him. Connie wants the safety of living on the inside of the love she now needs
      to share. The conflict is not with Eric, but with the prospect of not having anyone in mind that can fulfill this deep desire.
      Spending time with Eric is like being with herself, in some ways. He understands her lifestyle, as does she his, so the comfort level is perfect. For Connie, Eric, provides a stability that she appreciates, but his anger issues, now more well-managed than ever before, still rattle her a little. He is diligently working on the anger management with counseling.

      The conflict becomes more real, or I will care more for Connie if I
      see how she is feeling.

      She will find herself going down a
      familiar path when she finds herself accountable for seducing Eric. When Eric blows up one night, asking her to explain her familiar pattern of dissociating her feelings from her actions. This question renders Connie speechless.

      Oh, and the fun part. You can decide how long Connie’s hair is. Mine
      is short now, so I often let my characters have long hair.

      Connie’s naturally unprocessed, deeply wavy hair is cropped short on the sides and back, about two-inches long, and the full of curls that hang just below her left eyebrow, is silvery gray and shiny. Eric is her hairdresser.

      I hope that this fills in the blanks, Pamela. Thank you so much for this input. I wrote this afternoon, instead of studying! A first for sure!

      Stay in touch, I love this forum!


    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Berle,
      I seriously need to check in here every day instead of cleaning my seven litter boxes so often.
      After reading about your detailed analysis of your characters, I see you have a clear outline about your character Connie. What she looks like and what she wants.
      What do you want to do with dear Connie? If you had a beginning and a middle and an end to your story? What is the conflict and how will she resolve it? If Connie doesn’t know what she “really” wants she won’t be able to get through the conflict until the end. And as a reader we want Connie to get through her conflict and have some sort of resolution.
      Hope all is well with you.

  5. Barbara

    My most recently started story is about an old woman who at 91 realizes her life is nearly over. She has made millions for herself and a select group of friends by day trading and wants to turn control of her business over to a successor but has no one in mind whom she trusts, and no one to whom she wants to leave her money. She rails against the aging process, her lack of caring family, etc. A new neighbor seems to be a likely candidate, but how could she know?

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Barbara,
      Oh, your old woman sounds so interesting. That would really be a dilemma not knowing who to turn her business over to. A big conflict I see is the fight against aging.
      Yes, how could she know.
      Oh please share a short section. I want to meet your old woman.

  6. Thomas Furmato

    He looked into the window at the painting and knew he had to have it. He had never owned his own piece of artwork before, and here was a priceless article staring back at him, almost daring him to come and take it. With a just minute to act, he assessed his obstacles. This would have to be done quick, probably no more than 15 minutes, or he’d blow it. The the most important decision, should he write an Accomplishment Story, or a Decision Story?

    He sat on the couch with the computer on his lap and stared into the screen. He could hear the upstairs floor creak as his daughter began her day. He thought about the Accomplishment Story angle and wondered what kind of conflict he could throw together in such a short time. He’d really need some exciting obstacles. Amy walked down the steps and came into the room. “Dad, I don’t see any eggs. Do you know if there are any in the garage?” He thought for a moment.

    “You’ll have to go check. I don’t know if you’re mom went shopping yet.” He tried to keep his mind on the fifteen minute task. He knew that if he could write some stunning conflict in an Accomplishment Story, he’d win the prize painting offered by the guest blogger. What was it that caused just excitement in his life? What could he draw from in his experience? His daughter who stepped out in to the garage returned with a huff.

    “I don’t see any out there and I was really looking forward to having French toast what could I have for breakfast instead?” She acted as though it was the end of the world, he thought.

    “Amy, I don’t know. I’m trying to work on something. Can you ask me in a few minutes?” He looked back down at the empty page on his Google Docs. Maybe he should write the Decision Story. It might not have to be so tense, or even exciting. It could even be about some European culinary item. Heavy sighing caught his attention and he looked up to the doorway. His daughter who had not left stood there with her hands on her hips, exaggerating her breathing, in hopes of getting his attention.

    Before she could speak again, he moved the computer off his lap, stood up and walked over to her. Gently taking her by the arm, he slipped a five dollar bill into her hand. He turned her toward the door, and escorted her out. “Pick up something from McDonalds on the way in.” He closed the door behind her, settled in his mind about what it was he was going to do. He locked the door as he heard her walk back up the stairs.

    Then he sat back down on the couch. His fifteen minutes had expired, but he knew it was okay to break the rules sometimes. An extra five minutes wouldn’t kill anyone, he thought.

    • Charlotte Hyatt

      Very creative Thomas. That was a Decision Story about a story to write, interesting.

    • LilianGardner

      I like your story, Thomas, especially the last paragraph that it is okay to break rules sometimes.

  7. Gary G Little

    This is a re-write of the opening scene to a short story I have posted to the Writers Workshop.

    Henry Klein was a Loonie, born on the moon, a Lunar citizen. Fifty-five years old, 165 centimeters tall, widowed, greying hair with some areas of dishwater blonde that once was; not portly, not skinny, just comfortable. He loved looking at the Earth from the Gardens in Selene, or as it was called “Tranquility Base” by the tourists, immigrants, and slugs from Earth.

    Tourists were pardonable since they came to the moon to hop around for a few days, usually on paid tours to see the Apollo sites, collect a few “samples”, and then fall back down the gravity well to home somewhere on the “big blue marble”. Immigrants just didn’t know the Lunar names for places and used the Earthy terms for a while. Immigrants would learn, and nearly always became Loonies, citizens of Luna.

    Slugs were different. They nearly always were criminals avoiding prosecution, though on occasion they were simply Earth trash that had no where else to run. The moon became a respite, a haven, where they attempted to carry on as they had on Earth.

    Hank, as he liked to be called, was a very good software engineer, and he had been asked to do something he considered dishonest, and from that realized he had been working for a slug company. He had been asked to “cook the books” for Goldman & Minelli’s Lunar Import/Export, and had decided it was time to find another client.

    Goldman had harrumphed, “Rather short notice, Klein. I ain’t give’n no bonus for resigning a contract early.”

    Careful to not mention the culinary-book-keeping Hank replied, “That’s fine Mr. Goldman. I have an opportunity to move to Tyco Crater and I am going to take it.” That was true. Jen had fallen in love with the rim-wall view of Tyco Crater as seen from a small apartment. It would have been a bit small for two, but by himself, Hank felt it would be fine.

    “Fine, don’t let the door slam you in that ass on your way out,” Goldman said and punched a call button on his desk.

    Distracted by his own thoughts, Hank did not notice Goldman’s two body guards enter the office as he shuffled through the door.

    Closing his laptop bag, Hank walked out the door and left G&MLIE for the last time. It was early evening, the corridor lights were dimmer than daytime settings, and he was about to walk into the vertical access tube of his housing block when the lights went out. Goldman’s two body guards, Freddy and Pauly, had bagged Hank, and tossed him unconscious into the airtight cargo hold of a transport. “Bag” is what they called it on Luna, because it usually involved a bag, and a quick trip to the nearest airlock.

    • NerdOfAllTrades

      Nice story. I liked the ending, and didn’t see the twist coming. It was interesting how the accountant didn’t even consider the risks of resigning from a criminal organization; I like the touch of naïveté.
      One thing bothers me: Who is Jen? At first I thought she was a girlfriend that Hank was moving in with, until he said that he was going to be moving there alone. I know that this will probably be flushed out in the full story, but it still struck me as odd.
      I really like your description of the lunar colony, and its different types of inhabitants. I feel like this could be a really interesting setting for a full novel; as the beginning of a short story, it definitely left me wanting to read more. Are you eventually going to post the rest?

    • Gary G Little

      Yes, I to missed the lack of information for Jen. I mention that Hank is widowed, and Jen/Jenny was his wife. I need to flesh that out a bit. Thanks for the comments. You can see the last full post in the workshop. Hopefully today I’ll have a new update posted.

    • Reagan

      What is the Writer’s workshop? I signed up for the waiting list, but I can’t find out any more information?

    • Gary G Little

      I guess you could call it a critique group. You post a weekly writing there and then critique three other writers in turn. It does require a membership.

    • Glorie

      This is a really interesting story, and how much information you got across in this excerpt is really impressive! I could see the colony in my head, and I love that you were so descriptive! Nice job 🙂

  8. Namharra

    – Flowers, a sketch and a welling up of pride inside.-

    Ali yawned as he opened his eyes to the dim glow of the
    morning sun, flowing through the spaces between his curtains and window sill. Laying
    on his bed, he turned to his right to see the time on the clock above the side
    table. Five twenty- five.. five more minutes till the alarm goes off. Waking up
    before the alarm rang, had become a habit of late; as did the desire to stay curled
    up in bed after turning off the alarm.

    Three honks from the street below was the cue for him to go down to his gate
    and meet Andy, his business partner. Five thirty.. Ali remembered the time when
    Andy and He launched Social Change INC, their dream child. And what a dream it
    had been. They poured in all their savings from their previous jobs to
    establish the first office, right on the outskirts of the financial district. Slowly
    but surely they were to make progress. Their first project was a campaign to
    raise awareness among school children about the effects of bullying aptly
    named, STOP BULLYING!. It was a success. Some more projects later the initial prosperity
    of their business dwindled. Nine months had passed and now the bills were
    beginning to make a pile on the floor. The future did not look so promising.
    Why get off the bed to go face failure again?

    Five forty five. Andy was supposed to come at six fifteen. What’s the point, being
    late will hurt no one, the bills aren’t going anywhere. Ali turned to his left
    away from the window to get more comfortable. His eyes fell on a piece of paper
    stuck on the wall. On it was sketched roughly, with an unsteady hand, a man
    with a cape tied around his collar with fists on hips and beside him, a small
    boy with golden hair, holding his hand. Arrow marks were directed towards each;
    the one above the boy said ‘Me’, the other ‘You’. On the floor below the
    drawing, was a long glass holding some water and a small bouquet of dark blue
    flowers. A small note hanging from the outer most flowers read “Thank you for
    helping my son Ben get through the tough times.’ Ali’s eyes started watering right
    then: the night before when Ali was closing up his office, Mrs Macy and Ben had
    come. Before the launch of STOP BULLYING, Ben was performing badly in school,
    everyday Mrs Macy and Ben’s father had to convince a weeping and apprehensive
    Ben to go to school. During the campaign Ali’s lecture allowed Ben’s parents to recognize their son as a victim of bullying. They approached Ali to help Ben out for a week. Nine months and Ben had become a happy little boy again. Infact, now he would wake up earlier than his mother’s alarm to go to school. Wiping his tears away Ali decided that the comfort of his bed would not keep him. He arose. His work did have meaning. Slowly but surely the payoff came. It came with flowers, a sketch and a welling
    up of pride inside.

  9. aGuyWhoTypes

    Comment/no story:

    Conflict can be boiled down to simply differing needs/wants.
    Anything else?

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello A Guy Who Types,
      I love your name.
      Conflict in a story is as essential to a story as butter is to toast. Or as essential as a litter box is to an indoor cat.
      Something I didn’t mention in the article, is how sometimes the conflict is not with an outside element, but an internal struggle.
      Your boiling down was very accurate.
      I wonder why we like to read about a character overcoming a struggle? Perhaps it gives us hope we can overcome our own struggles.
      And the main character doesn’t always have to win. Because in life we don’t always win.
      p.s. What do you like to write about?

  10. kwjordy

    Sheryl’s back hurt. She stood with most of her weight on her left leg; it eased the pain, a bit. The jars on the shelf in front of her were hard to see through her dark sunglasses, but she dared not take them off. They had a very specific duty. She moved closer to the shelves and took one of the jars in her hand. Grape jelly. No artificial colors or preservatives. “Well”, she thought, “they soon damn will have artificial flavoring.” She returned the jar to its place on the shelf and reached for another jar. “He likes strawberry preserves, but he likes the smoothness of the grape jelly.”

    She read the ingredients on the strawberry preserves jar, then returned it to its place. Taking up the grape jelly once again, she looked for some sign on the jar that this should be her choice. Would Jammer have this kind of patience, she wondered. Probably not. But then, Jammer would probably use a different method. This was a woman’s way of taking care of things. And it would be just as effective as Jammer’s way might be…maybe more so.

    Sheryl rubbed her head then looked at her bloody fingers. Still bleeding. She made a mental note to also pick up some mercurochrome while she was on that side of the store. She touched her nose to make certain, for the umpteenth time, that it wasn’t broken. He’d broken it before, but it had healed straight, thankfully.

    The loose gym pants were not flattering, but they provided the comfort her battered body yelled out for. She had quickly pulled them on along with a dirty t-shirt from the laundry basket, and slipped her feet into her Birkenstocks when she’d made her decision to go to the supercenter to get everything she needed to do it.

    She rubbed her eye under her glasses; the pressure felt good and relieved some of the pain behind her eye. Turning both jars in her hand she looked back at the shelves of jams, jellies, and preserves to see if there might be a better choice, a choice she could be even more certain Jammer wouldn’t turn down. It was important that this go as planned. If he suspected anything, if her actions gave her away, it might be the end of her, she knew.

    Strawberry preserves. It had to be the strawberry preserves. Jammer wouldn’t turn down a PBJ with strawberry preserves. And the texture would hide the coarseness of the Sloan’s. She couldn’t use crunchy peanut butter; Jammer hated crunchy.

    Sheryl placed the jar of strawberry preserves in the plastic hand-held basket she carried and headed for the house and garden section, stopping in the pharmacy to pick up the mercurochrome.

    There was no choice this time. She had already decided on Sloan’s. She placed two boxes alongside the strawberry preserves, then stopped and thought a moment. “What else do I need? Potato chips.” Jammer always ate potato chips – Lays original, not those fucking ridges – with his PBJs. Sheryl grabbed a big bag and walked to the front of the store to check out.

    She felt amazingly calm. There was no more nervousness, no more fear of him. She felt a tranquility she’d only experienced a few times in her life: when her father died, the time her grandfather picked her up after her car broke down on the freeway.

    The items in the basket were moved to the conveyor belt. It was surreal for Sheryl to watch them move toward the cash register. When the two brown boxes got to the scanner, they would not scan. The cashier tried and tried, but to no avail. He got on the loudspeaker system. “House and Garden, price check on Sloan’s Rat Poison”. Any other time Sheryl might have panicked at having been given away, but on this occasion she remained calm and centered. Nothing could spoil this for her.

    The cashier bagged her items and Sheryl carried her goods to her car. As she drove toward home she thought, “Today is going to be a good day. But tomorrow is going to be even better.”

  11. Krithika Rangarajan

    So excited about this series – I do not pen fiction (because I lack the imagination 😛 ), but your articles are as comforting as ice-cream during the monsoon season 😉 #HUGS

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Krithika Rangarajan,
      So nice to see your smiling face. Hope all is well.
      How have you been. Maybe your imagination is just hiding behind self doubt? Behind a teacher in grade school who was mean?
      Hugs to you.


    Very good post that will help me in my next writing ! Thanks
    I think I will try a accomplishement story and in the middle put my protagonist in a situation to decide whether he will follow his rules or break them -his moral and ethic principles in the mist of the conflict… People are not always black and white, they can change under pressure and be tempted… I am so thrilled to start writing and be in the middle of this conflict. Don’t know yet how will be resolved ???

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Annie Eve,
      How is you story going? What happened to your protagonist?

  13. Rag Mars

    Why…does all that wonderful stuff not help at all? When we follow all
    those lessons to the Letter – will that enable anyone to write any good
    story???? Are the Disciples of those Gospels our next Great Writers…Did any
    Great Writer follow any of those Gospels – or were they heretics, fighting with
    the dumb Editors, who tried to “Correct” them to proper writing…that is the
    disturbing question

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Rag Mars,
      You ask a good question. Does learning about writing help? Or does writing help?
      Following advice, or blazing a trail.


    • Rag Mars

      In High School in the exploding era of
      the now mythical 60s, I read Franz Kafka. He did not even intend to get
      published, he burnt many manuscripts. Kafka is considered a Classic – steno-graphed
      his nightmares, dreams, visions. I believe any good Art is that. We improve by
      moving forward accepting challenges. Once we go to any School we get formatted
      into patterns. The worst is to listen to any kind of Critique, positive or
      negative. Beethoven was heavily criticized for his compositions. Only History
      will show, what will last. Most of anything will be just Tears in the Rain.

  14. Mintress

    Is my main character the Antagonist because she is struggling AGAINST something the opposing force wants?

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Mintriss,
      Interesting question. Your main character wants something, even if it is to not let the opposing force win. In the movie “Die Hard” the main character, John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is fighting against the bad guys, the German terrorists; McClane is the protagonist. He wants to live and save his wife and the others taken hostage.
      Does this help?

    • Mintress

      I have look a lot between my Antagonist and Protagonist and I see that in their own senses they are heroes, but my protagonist is the good fighting force because she moves on and tries to help people all around. Thank you for the help.

  15. Jason Bougger

    I tend to write accomplishment stories. But wow, this was a great and informative post. Conflict is vital and I’m trying to train myself to find conflict (however small) in every scene. No conflict = no scene, imo.

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hey Jason,
      Thank you for stopping by.
      Sometimes the conflict is internal, and not a major battle. When a character walks into a scene they should walk out of it changed. Even slightly. Or they are just walking.

  16. Bhupendra Dhakate

    Amazing tips for story writing!! Wonderful job Pamela! But I would suggest you to make a strong base. Give the examples of well known stories which are based on conflicts in your starting paragraph. I also have some articles related to this topic,which would be beneficial for your website. Please ping me on my email

  17. Anita

    (To be honest, I haven’t written anything in a very long time)

    Leana wasn’t sure if she felt like laughing or crying, but in this moment with the heat of the fire growing behind her prickling at the back of her neck, she felt equally strong about both possibilities. Maye Fallon, with her dark, tightly cropped hair and disinterested gaze was standing before her, arm stretched out with an open palm – an invitation- and an air of calmness about her which was completely uncalled for given their current circumstances.

    The plan had failed, she had been discovered and every shred of evidence that could have proven her innocence was set aflame. She had been careless, arrogant, and now she sat hunkered in an alleyway not nearly a safe enough distance away from the building which had rather quickly been engulfed into flames, along with her hopes of freedom.

    And of course, Maye was there. Why wouldn’t she be? Her most cursed, loathed rival from the academy whom she had always imagined herself as pitted against, in all things. Maye, who hard barely in their four years together there given her a cursory glance. Who didn’t even know her name, even when Leana was always second best. And here she now stood, offering her hand like it was the done thing but still seeming as though she doesn’t even see Leana.

    Well, Leana thought bitter, I bet she knows my name now. The supposed murderer of the Director should warrant remembering.

    The girl before her shifted slightly.

    ‘Are you planning on getting caught up in the fire, or what?’

    Aware that the flames were only creeping closer to her, Leana stood her place defiantly. Today wasn’t her day for being smart.

    ‘Maybe that’s a preferable fate compared to accepting your help. Why are you even here?’

    Maye’s thin mouth tightened into a barely controlled scowl.

    ‘Why does it matter? I don’t see anyone else offering to help get you out of this mess. Look around you, your big shot at clearing your name has literally gone up in flames!’

    It was the most emotive Leana could ever recall hearing Maye be, and it startled her for a moment. She could of course, walk away. She certainly didn’t need Maye’s help, even if she had pretty effectively made a right mess of things trying to go at it alone.

    The dark haired girl huffed a noise of frustration.

    ‘Fine, if you don’t want my help,’ Maye muttered as she began pulling her hand back from its offer of aid.

    The heat from the flames behind her were so strong now, it felt like a physical presence pushing her forward. In a swift motion she surely did not decide to make herself, Leana reached out and clasped Maye’s hand before the offer disappeared altogether.

    Without completely meeting her rival’s gaze, she said,

    ‘Well, if you wanted me to stick around that badly.’

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Anita,
      Your story is full of drama and excitement. I wanted to know more. What happened? Who were the rivals?
      I got a little confused in the beginning trying to sort out the two characters. I had to go back and see which girl had the dark hair.
      So happy to meet you and read your story!

  18. Musick Fisher

    By the time I was ready to attend school we had moved again, but this time we would live in our house on Maine Avenue for quite some time.

    Please join bestseller writers group

  19. Mark Heyer

    What’s the role of the antagonist in the decision conflict? The example didn’t have one.



  1. Monday Must-Reads [06.22.15] - […] How to Write a Story 101: Conflict […]
  2. Write From The Perspective of a Shoe - […] object can be in a real-life drama. They may want something, and struggle to overcome conflict. A story without conflict…
  3. This Story Game Will Train Your Imagination (and a prize!) - […] must go out of the house through the garage. In the garage is the antagonist of the story. Every good…
  4. How To Write a Story 101: Character | Creative Writing - […] continues our series How to Write a Story 101. See the earlier post about […]
  5. Ramp Up the Conflict in Your Story With This One Technique - […] found that my lack of tension and conflict stemmed from me not letting my characters mess up. In a…
  6. 6 More Creative Ways to Strengthen Your Story Idea - […] story is about conflict, so these contrasting techniques are a great way to strengthen your story idea. Here’s […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Vestige Rise of the Pureblood
- Antonio Roberts
Surviving Death
- Sarah Gribble
Share to...