Conflict is necessary for all stories. It doesn’t matter what kind of story it is — novel, short story, mystery, romance, thriller, children’s, adult — it will always need conflict. In order to keep the plot interesting and exciting, some type of conflict must be there. It gives your characters obstacles they have to overcome before they can reach their goals.
But how do you create conflict for your characters?
3 Types of Conflict
Conflict can come in innumerable shapes and sizes, but they can ultimately be broken down into one of three categories. Are you using these three types of conflict in your stories?
1. Conflict between your characters
Characters can argue, disagree, disobey the others’ wishes, keep secrets from each other, betray each other, and do many other things that would cause two or more people to butt heads. The most common kind of conflict between characters is when the protagonist and their enemy end up in the same room together.
That’s not to say friends and family can’t fight, though. In fact, conflict between allies can make a difficult situation a thousand times more interesting.
2. Conflict between your characters and the outside world
When events outside of your characters’ control occur — unexpected illness, a sudden loss of money, a death in the family, an injury, global events, etc. — characters are forced to react. Whether they deal with their situation in a poor or healthy way is up to you, the writer, but nevertheless, it reveals a truth about your characters and feeds the fire of your plot.
3. Conflict between your characters and themselves
This is quite possibly my favorite type of conflict, mostly because it can be the most frustrating for your characters. When there are problems your characters have no power over, they can place their anger on an outside person or object. But when the problems your characters face come from themselves, they can only turn their anger inward.
This can be difficult to write, but if it is portrayed well, it is extremely rewarding.
Internal conflict can result from your characters losing faith in their religion, deciding whether or not to break or bend the rules for “the greater good,” wrestling with addiction, doing what’s right versus doing what’s easy, feeling out of control, and more.
Experiment With All Three Types
Stories can have any one of these possible types of conflict, or they can have all of them. What matters most is that there is plenty of it and that it is carried out in the most interesting way possible.
Avoid clichés, play with characters’ relationships with each other, put your characters in the most difficult situations possible, and think about how they will handle these obstacles in a way that is true to their personalities.
What's your favorite type of conflict? Let us know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to write a scene that starts with your character in the heart of some kind of conflict. Start with a conflict from one of these three categories, but feel free to include two or all three, if you wish. See where the story takes you.
When you’re finished, share your writing in the comments, if you’d like. Be sure to give your fellow writers some love, too!