Writing: Conflict

Within and Without?

In all stories there are two kinds of conflict. The inner conflict each character battles with as they face their day to day business, and the outer conflict the characters act out as the story escalates to its inevitable end.

how it works?

Conflict on the page transforms into rising tension within the reader.

Let’s look at a simple example:

The main character aka MC has a severe allergy to cats, and everyone knows she avoids them at all costs. Let’s also say she accidentally runs over one outside her home when she parks her car. Doing the right thing she rushes it to the vet. He can’t save it and she lands up using her rent money to pay the bill.

MC’s roommate aka RM loves cats and has a rescued cat hidden in her bedroom. She has been trying to get the nerve up to tell MC about her new adopted bestie.

When MC gets home and confesses she spent her rent money trying to save a cat, RM won’t believe it. Everyone knows MC hates cats. Probably ran it over on purpose. MC denies it. Here comes RM big chance to tell MC about the cat hidden in RM’s bedroom. But when she goes to get it, it’s gone.

flora-312815_1280bCan you guess where it is?

Conflict is based on relationships

All three characters are interrelated. What happens to one affects the restโ€”inside and out.

What do you do to bump it up? Any tricks you’d care to share.

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38 responses to “Writing: Conflict

  1. Interesting thoughts and insight Anna. I wish I could offer you advice but I sadly am not a writer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Well-described. I agree.

  3. I always start with my protagonistsโ€™ inner conflict. Conflict isnโ€™t just plot or events, itโ€™s emotion. When I read a book that falls flat, itโ€™s nearly always because the emotional component is missing. There’s no true character arc.

    VR Barkowski

  4. Your example made me cringe. I’d hate to be part of that conversation when the realizations hit. Great conflict. I think the inner conflict is actually more important than the outer conflict. We can all relate to inner struggles, regardless of what’s going on outside in the character’s world. It’s the emotional side that makes the characters human.

    • I like letting the reader in on things before it hits the fan.

      I didn’t really aim at the inner conflict, did I? I have to stop leaving it off the page.

  5. I love conflict. I just throw whatever I want (within the bounds of the story and plot) at my characters. Doing that surely increases the conflict, both inner and outter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I would start with how the MC can’t shake this cold, how it’s really bad at home but at work/uni she’s alright. (Obviously, the allergy). And she keeps dreaming about cats, and then how the RM is really struggling to hide a secret. You don’t find out what the secret is until the very end….

  7. I am going to quote the person who has influenced my writing life more than anyone or anything. Holly Lisle. Here is what she says about conflict; I love it. So much truth in two words action=consequence. I censored one word to avoid any offense.

    “Conflict is not one d4^^n thing after another. Conflict is actions and their consequences.” ~Holly Lisleย 

  8. Love your example of action and the consequence it created in a problem.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    • I agree, I did okay expressing the exterior conflicts.

      Although I meant to include inner conflict I really missed the mark. Perfect example of why we all need beta readers to kick out behinds. hehehe

  9. LOL I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t laugh, but I couldn’t help myself. Great post!
    sherry @ fundinmental

  10. I’ve finally come around to enjoying throwing tons of conflict at my characters. Yay!

  11. Excellent set up for conflict, and a twist. I was helping my son with an essay for his English class on a character who acts one way, outwardly, and thinks another way, inwardly, and how those two collide, and in the end he changes his outward actions because of his inner conflicts. (They’re studying The Crucible.)

  12. Awe poor kitty and a perfect example.

  13. You build a great conflict and make a great point. It really is all about relationships and the struggles stress them. I just read a story with good external conflict, but it lacked internal conflict. I missed that aspect.

  14. Usually, I bump up the conflict by using a combination of internal and external conflicts. But if I REALLY want the conflicts to sing, I ramp up the stakes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Great post! I am struggling with the conflict in one section of my WIP. The internal conflict is already there, but I think I need to turn the screws up on the external conflict in those chapters to get it right …

  16. As a cat lover, that little story got to me. Congratulations on upping the conflict.

  17. Interesting. I try to aim for a balance of both inner and outer conflict. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Great work on upping the conflict! I do love ramping up conflicts and watching my characters squirm. ๐Ÿ™‚

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