Five for Friday: Dynamic Conflict for Fiction Writers

Advice for Writers from a Writing Consultant Extra Ink Edits

Today, I’d like to share with you a section of my writing tips book on conflict. This comes from Chapter One: Essential tools for the Writer. Plot is essentially what happens in the story. Conflict is what propels the plot. In the excerpt below, I’ve outlined the five major types of conflict for you. It can be tempting to think of an evil villain to set your hero up against. There’s nothing wrong with that, but stories can be richer, more dynamic, and more fulfilling when conflict arises in unexpected ways. It can also make your characters seem more true to life.

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Conflict is an important bridge between plot and characters. Each novel, no matter the genre, contains some sort of conflict. Many contain more than one. You can layer conflicts to create more interesting plots and more dynamic characters.

Internal vs. External

External conflict is easy to spot. A firefighter battling the raging flames, a son arguing with his father, or a battle ensuing between two armies are all examples of external conflict. It is a strong component in commercial fiction, fantasy, action, adventure, mystery, crime, and some historical fiction. Internal conflict is about the issues under the surface. This may be conflicting thoughts, emotions, feelings, or interpersonal relationships that are simmering.

Five major types of conflicts

Here are some of the major conflict varieties.

Man vs. Man

This is what most people think of when conflict is mentioned. Basically, a character opposes another character. This may be as dramatic as through a battle or in a more benign way like funny sibling rivalry.

Man vs. Self

While man vs. man is external conflict, man vs. self is internal. Self-doubt, health crises, and overcoming personal obstacles are all examples of this type of conflict.

Man vs. Society

Man vs. society may be external, if the character acts against the injustice. Or it may be internal, if the character is affected by the margniazlation of society, or some other aspect of it, that has been internalized.

Man vs. Nature

This is a frequent favorite of action adventure stories. Vicious animals, bad weather, and surviving in the wilderness are all examples of man vs. nature.

Man vs. God

This may be external, such as a Greek mythology story where a character encounters a god and has some sort of interaction. Or, it may be an internal struggle, such as a character having a crisis of faith.

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My best to you all,

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