Types of Conflict
Write Better, Right Now is a weekly post helping writers understand deeper writing strategies to take their stories to the next level. For writers looking for free creative writing workshops, check out Workshops for Writers!
Write Better, Right Now’s topics for August:
- Conflict in Fiction
- Types of Conflict
- External Conflict
- Internal Conflict
This month we’ll go over conflict and how to use it in our stories. Conflict can be anything that stands in the way of what a character wants. So, you can imagine there is a variety of types of conflict. Each type has a purpose and works best in certain situations in your story. You may have come across some types of conflict framed in a One Thing vs Another Thing way.
But you may also have seen conflict referred to in smaller ways and indirectly like fights, sprained ankles, breakups, etc. Both of those are types of conflict, but sometimes it helps thinking about them like we did with tension—in macro and micro ways. The big picture conflict in a story that pits one thing against something else is macro conflict, while all the little squabbles and conflict beats that happen throughout your story are micro conflicts.
Let’s dive into it more below!
The big overarching conflict types generally are:
- Person vs Person
- Person vs Nature
- Person vs Society
- Person vs Technology
- Person vs Supernatural
- Person vs Fate
- Person vs Self
The resources I share below get into each of these even more, but I’m sure they are easy to understand. Conflict at any level is about what stands in opposition to your character. Fast and the Furious? Person vs Self. The main character is playing a dangerous game with his own past and desires. The Expanse? Person vs Society with a bit of Person vs Supernatural.
And while those are the big plot picture ideas of conflict, we need to build conflict into the everyday scenes and beats of our characters. Stumping their toe when chasing after the person who just stole their housekey. Where would that fall in the big ideas of conflict? Person vs Tech? Person vs Nature? Smaller bits of conflict, micro conflict, are harder to categorize.
The list of micro conflicts goes on for infinity almost. If you can put it against your character, it’s conflict. But just because it’s conflict, should you use it? I’ve come across a lot of manuscripts where the author is just inserting all types of micro or small conflicts to make their characters face one problem after the other, but instead of making the story interesting, it falls flat.
This happens because the small conflicts that the author is placing into the story feel disconnected with the overarching conflict at play in the full story. The conflicts are disconnected and become superfulious. When the two conflicts blend by connecting the small conflicts with the big picture conflict of your story, you create a deeper sense of connection throughout your story.
Go through a few of your last WIPs and identify what types of conflict you write about. Examine how your conflicts connect throughout the story.
Don’t worry about editing or revising the work. This exercise is about getting you in the mindset of critically thinking about your work and turning on your editor’s brain.
- 7 Types of Conflict
- 5 Types of Conflict
- Introducing Conflict into Your Story
- 10 Ways to Introduce Conflict
- How to Find Conflict in a Story
To check out past topics covered in the Write Better, Right Now series, check here!
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Catch you next month for our Write Better, Right Now post on external conflict.
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