Writing: Adding Inner Conflict

Last week I posted about writing conflict. And although I meant to include inner conflict, I proved to myself I know less than I thought. Enlightened, I decided to find out more.

All fleshed out characters have a longing or a need. Let’s define longing as a deep thinker-28741desire or wish that they’ve never acted upon. Their deep need is the awareness that something is missing, but they can’t identity what it might be. One or the other drives a character toward an inner goal.


Within the character arc is where all the changes take place. For example, MC starts off selfish and works her way to being selfless. As with the story arc, we need tension and tension comes from what stops the character from achieving their goal.

Disney is a master at letting the audience know what the character longs for or needs. It doesn’t matter what they strive for. What does matter is going through the stages of trying, failing and trying again. Little by little the character earns their right to achieve their goal.

While there is doubt whether the dream will come true, Disney has never failed to give me a heartwarming ending.

Here are some possible obstacles:


  • Loving from a distance and reaching out
  • Trusting another character without reservation
  • Taking a chance like singing the lead


Whether it’s a broken heart or a phobia, fear is stopping your character from achieving their goal, during their arc they need to get over it.

hard decisions

  • Brain vs Heart
  • Wrong and Legal vs Moral and Illegal
  • Living up to anothers expectations vs Doing what is right for them
  • Wants two things and can only have one. Example, boyfriend and husband.

In the end, all of us must make choices. Our characters are more human if they have choices too.

Anything I missed? Please feel free to add to the list. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gleaned from:


34 responses to “Writing: Adding Inner Conflict

  1. I love seeing character growth in stories so I love seeing this and how you broke it down. It is definitely a must for any good story.

  2. I don’t really pay attention to character arcs as much as the plot when I write because (for me, at least) my plots create or exploit their inner conflict, and by the end of the novel my characters have changed based on the things they experience. I just let my stories do what they’re supposed to do without me getting involved in trying to figure out how my characters need to grow, which (in the end) helps my characters grow. If that makes sense.

  3. Great reminder. Inner dialogue is a great way to humanize tough characters with their doubts and fears.

  4. Wonderful post, Anna. Sorry I haven’t been by recently. My email got hacked and I’m still not getting a lot of post notifications by email even though I’m following. Not sure how to fix that but me and my guru are working on it.

  5. Having inner conflict adds so much more to the story. It can dictate how characters act in any given situation. You spelled it out well.

  6. spunkonastick

    Those inner conflicts are what really drive both the character and the story.

  7. And then there’s that heartbreaking moment at the middle of the story where the character realizes something they want isn’t necessarily what they want. It’s time for a new dream. I LIVE for character arcs. If the characters don’t arc, I can’t get invested.

  8. Informative post as always! Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Thanks for posting this. Conflict makes for great suspense and drama in a story. Whether it’s internal or external, conflict is necessary for a character to grow by making sometimes by making some tough decisions. It wouldn’t be much of a story if things were too easy for the MC. I like KM Weiland’s take on conflict by doubling it by adding conflict through the consequences of the character’s decisions. http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/double-storys-conflict-seconds/

    • “Goal + Conflict + Complications = Twice the Conflict.” from the link above.

      I’m not sure I agree that it doubles the conflict but it definitely increases it.

  10. *meant by adding complications, not conflict, through the consequences of the character’s decisions.

    • I agree with complications due to consequences. I just think that the complications increase the tension bit by bit leading to an inevitable ending.

  11. Hi, Anna, good info, thank you! I think your lists were pretty thorough so I have nothing to add. With my own process, I find I like my characters so much that it’s a real struggle to torture them as they need to be. I have to force myself to break them down further, esp. the protag, who has to be brought to their brink. It’s a good thing if you love your characters though, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Great post. I like noticing that inner conflict ARC within stories and how everything progresses.

  13. Great post. Enjoy it. As always informative and educational.

    You know Disney had a team of writers that actually created those ARC’s and still do. One of my favorite writers is Christopher Vogler who worked at Disney for years and his book “The Writerโ€™s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writerโ€™s” third edition, by Christopher Vogler is based on his letter to Disney and the team of writer’s years ago distributed at the time to very few, โ€œA Practical Guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces” was then email. Christopher’s personal story is interesting to read.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  14. I’m getting better at figuring out how the character changes throughout the story, and making sure I remember to put that arc in their.

  15. Good rundown of obstacles, Anna. For me, writing is all about the inner conflict. Thatโ€™s where I start my stories. The plots are there only to serve the character and his or her transformative arcโ€”but that may be because of the genre I write.

    VR Barkowski

  16. jennifer@badbirdreads

    A great breakdown. I love making my characters feel real with inner conflict.

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