Conflict Development

How to make your conflict genuine

So, what is conflict?

On a basic level, conflict is a literary device involving a struggle between two opposing forces.

This struggle can stretch from the complications of stubbing a toe to the consequences of a public religious debate.

On a deeper level, conflict is an element that can give your story purpose and give agency to your characters’ growth.

There are 5 major categories of conflict:

– Man vs Self

– Man vs Man

– Man vs Society

– Man vs Nature

– Man vs Supernatural

Incorporating layers of different conflict can make your story more complex and interesting.

It is up to you how much conflict you want to integrate into your work.

But whatever you decide, conflict is a crucial element to your story and should be just as thought-out as your characters and your plot.


Here are a few tips and tricks to help you better generate your conflict

1.) Know your characters

Conflict is directly correlated to characterization. Good conflict can elevate (or coincide with) the desires, goals and personalities of your characters to build tension.

So, the more you know your characters, the easier it will be for you to create natural conflict.

2.) Give your characters clear values and goals

Similar to knowing your characters personality traits and thought processes, giving your characters clear motivations, values and goals can help you create natural conflict.

Maybe your character has a goal that’s not going according to plan.

Maybe someone is actively trying to stop your character from reaching his/her goal.

Maybe your character’s own negativity is keeping him/her from carrying out a plan.

Whether you choose to make your main source of conflict centered on the values of your characters or not, knowing each of their desires will help your reader to understand your characters and can open gateways for you to create conflict later in your story.

3.) Let your characters fail

A protagonist who gets everything that he/she wants and who executes plans that always go right the first time are one-note and bland.

While your characters can succeed in the end, you should strive to throw some stumbling blocks in their way throughout their journey.

Shake things up a little.

Make things interesting.

Your audience can learn a lot about a character by watching him/her problem solve or simply just by witnessing your character’s reaction to an obstacle.

Things to keep in mind as you are getting started:

1.) Don’t have conflict for the sake of conflict

Don’t throw in a random scene between your character and his/her ex just so you can dust off your hands and check off the “conflict” bullet on your writing to-do list.

Every obstacle that your character encounters, every argument that he/she has, every reaction your character has to trouble should tell something to your audience.

2.) You don’t need a villain to have conflict

Remember the 5 types of conflict?

4 of them are struggles that characters have with an abstract force (society, nature, spirits etc.).

3.) Everything in moderation

Don’t throw every type of conflict you can muster into your story.

Readers like to see your characters struggle, but too much struggle can be just as boring as a cake walk.

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