Conflict: external vs. internal

Logo_WritingTipsEvery writer knows that conflict is necessary for a story. Without conflict, there is no story. To make a writer’s job more interesting, conflict can take many forms, and the more forms of conflict you have in one story, the more complex the plot. Here are several common forms of conflict:

  1. Protagonist against villain
  2. Protagonist against nature
  3. Protagonist against society
  4. Protagonist against antagonist (they’re both good, but their goals are at cross purposes)
  5. Protagonist against himself

This is not a comprehensive list but it is fairly representative of the majority of known stories. The numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all variations of external conflict: our hero against an outside resistance to his goals. Number 5 denotes an internal conflict. It is the most fascinating form of conflict, the one inspiring the most controversial stories and the most engaging characters. In #5, the hero has two desires or two great needs, and they contradict each other. He must make a choice and sacrifice one for the other.

In my fiction, I’ve utilized mostly ##1, 3, and 5. Number 4 is often employed in romance novels, which I haven’t tried so far. I also haven’t had #2 in any of my stories, although I’m thinking about an earthquake. Number 5 is by far my favorite, and I’ve used it in several stories.

In my novel ALMOST ADEPT, the protagonist Eriale is in conflict with herself. On one hand, her beloved is facing a fight of his life against overwhelming forces. Without her magical help, he might be killed. On the other hand, a group of young apprentices are in mortal danger from an evil blood mage, and Eriale is the only one who could save them. Whatever choice she makes, the consequences might be devastating.

In my short story WINTER CHOICE, the protagonist, a young magician Svetlana, is in love with a handsome duke. Unfortunately, there is a snag in her romantic bliss. Someone close to the duke is a murderer, and Svetlana has been sent to the duke’s demesne specifically to find and punish the villain. If she follows her duty, she will have to forfeit her love. If she follows her heart, the culprit will escape retribution. Her two goals can’t coincide. She is torn, but a decision must be made. To see what she chose, read the story here.

What about you? What types of conflict have you used in your stories? Could you think of any type I haven’t mentioned?

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This entry was posted in Almost Adept, Fantasy, Magic, Olga Godim, Short Story, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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