If you’re reading this, you’re probably deep in the NaNo prep trenches, getting ready to embark on the adventure that is NaNoWriMo! Welcome friends.
Today I want to talk about conflict, and the different types thereof. Conflict is the driving force of a story, and it’ll make your life much easier if you know the conflict of your story ahead of time. Why? Because if you know the conflict, you can then look at how they would manifest within your character/s, world, and thus, where your plot’s going next.
What is conflict?
Conflict is at its very core a disagreement. Its where two things come together with opposing goals.
There are two types of conflict:
External – Where outside forces conflict with the character’s goals forming an obstacle.
Internal (almost wrote Infernal there, I think we can safely say I have my Infernal Hunt books on the brain!) – Where two opposing desires or emotions form and vie for supremacy.
External conflict is, as the name might suggest, something that comes from outside of the character. This can further be broken down into:
Character vs character.
Character vs nature
Character vs society
Character vs technology
There is a myriad of ways in which those conflicts can manifest. Take Powdered Ink, the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo as an example. That is primarily character vs character as Kaitlyn is trying to track down and retrieve the seers stone. She’s competing with rival treasure hunters and the ceremonials to do that.
Knowing that allows me to break it down further and see what obstacles get in Kaitlyn’s way. This is the plot in its most basic form.
To understand the obstacles, I need to know the goals of the characters she’s working against. They all also want the seers stone.
So how far will they go to achieve that goal? Will they kill?
Then, what resources do they have to achieve that goal? Could those resources be used against Kaitlyn to form an obstacle? For example, the ceremonials have a far reach, so they could call in help to give her false information or run her off the road. They’re both plot points and obstacles that Kaitlyn will have to deal with to achieve her goal.
If your story were character vs nature, we’ll say a hurricane, then the obstacles would be things such as downed power lines, fallen trees, flooded areas, lack of food, and so on and so forth. The over-arching plotline is how does the protagonist deal with that conflict.
Internal conflict is as the name suggests, internal. It takes place within the character’s mind.
An example could be that the character lusts after another character, but the second character is married and thus out of bounds.
That then produces unpleasant sensations within the person, a disharmony that they have to work through and deal with until it’s resolved.
Another example could be the character is confronted by the person who killed their best-friend. Do they take revenge on their friend, or help them.
The character is torn between those desires and must resolve them in some satisfactory way.
Where external conflict tends to push the plot forwards, it’s an action-driven conflict, internal conflict tends to do the opposite. The character needs to pause and work through the thoughts running through their head before they can go on. Of course both forms of conflict can run alongside each other.
For example, in a character vs society situation, the character could be the second in command. They feel that the leader is weak and wrong, but they also know that the main group of rebels would fall apart if they lost said leader. The protagonist is then torn between removing the leader and taking that risk, and remaining securely where they are.
That could lead to external conflict where the protagonist pauses a second too long thus causing the police to find a safe-house, or the leader got injured where the protagonist withheld information for their own benefit.
In summary, conflict is where two opposing forces come together to battle it out until one wins. Sometimes those forces are quite literal forces, other times they’re emotions and desires. Either way, they drive the plot and must be resolved by the end of the story to give readers a feeling of satisfaction.
If you liked this post, check out my Urban Fantasy over on Amazon!