External conflict is everything that happens outside of the character or to the character. Writers use external conflict to place obstacles in the characters’ paths, but they also use external conflict to color the story, quicken or slow the pace, and add diversity to the narrative structure.
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.
This month we’ll go over conflict and how to use it in our stories. Conflict in a story can be easily identified as anything that goes against what the main or POV character wants. For example, stepping on a tack on the way to the fridge for a glass of water is conflict. A potential lover saying no to a date is conflict. While those are all negative examples, conflict can be positive, too.
Writers use macro tension to keep the large-scale elements of their story driving conflict and suspense. But you can also use it for things outside inducing conflict. Macro tension can also be a way for you to tease the reader about aspects of your world and to develop character relationships.
Writers use microtension to add depth to their writing and stories. Without microtension, there wouldn’t be those minuet changes in tension and atmosphere that happen throughout a great story.
Tension is the sense that something is about to happen, whether that be good or bad. We often think bad or negative when we think about tension. But we don’t have to. We can use tension in our fiction to build joy between friends solidifying or even mending a friendship. Using tension, we can keep our readers in our stories, wondering what happens next.
When talking about tension, anticipation comes up. Many writers don’t know the difference, but it’s an important distinction to make like all writing techniques and skills.
While themes and thematic statements crop up throughout our stories, we can consciously weave them into our work to drive the desired effects in our readers. Once we make the choice of what themes and what thematic statement we want to write with, we can start layering them into our works, enhancing both our stories and our themes.
Like thematic statements, themes aren’t necessary, though readers may find themes in your work you did not intend. To help steer your story in the right direction in the reader’s mind, elect specific themes you want to explore in your story. Now, a theme can be any idea like love, dating, alcoholism, fighting, capitalism, or stoicism. The list goes on and on.
The easest way to find your story’s thematic statement is by considering what you want to do with your story. Think beyond writing a good story. What are you actually setting out to say or do with your story to make it good?