What causes internal conflict in our characters?
The more heartfelt the choice and its consequences the deeper the inner conflict.
Recovering from past wounds: All our characters should have a backstory full of past wounds and regrets. These wounds will only heal if they are confronted and conquered. Until then the inner pain will stop the character from chasing their dreams or desires.
Dragging baggage through a story or letting it go can be a huge source of inner conflict.
Beliefs and assumptions: How a characters sees their world shapes their reactions within it. An example is their world is a cold place to raise a child, so they may go to great lengths to prevent conception. Another would be if they could only find love then everything would be okay.
It doesn’t matter if the belief or assumption is true. What matters is how the character choose to behave because of what they believe.
Armor or mask: Some characters present a false self to their world. They keep a wall around them or wear a mask as they interact with the world and the other characters in it. Fear of rejection or of judgement can put the mask in place, but emotional armor doesn’t really protect anyone.
In mysteries, its purpose is to hide the killer.
A common source of inner conflicts is fear: What frightens a character the most? Change? Exposure? The truth? Fear of never learning from past mistakes, phobias, torn between two possible futures—making a decision and living with it forever.
Fear of the unknown.
Each conflict demands the character make a conscience choice, commit to it and accept consequences. This can happen once, or repeatedly depending on the character’s journey.
Which is your favorite inner conflict?