A Lesson by Casper Cross

Types of Conflict and how to include them in your writing.


Simply put... if you don't have conflict then you don't have a story.  The most talented writers in the world have nothing to sell if they don't have conflict.
For such a simple concept, it seems that so many writers don't have a clue how to make it work.  Truth be told, writing in conflict is like mixing in just the right amount of ingredients to bake a cake.  Too much of one thing or too little of another will not produce the desired result.
The same holds true for writing a good story or novel.  Too much conflict, and the story becomes too cumbersome to read, not enough and you don't have a story to tell.
There are five types of conflict:

Internal Conflict - Here the main character is dealing with a conflict within themselves.
Relational Conflict - This is a form of external conflict where the main character has a conflict with another person.
Social Conflict - Here we have a situation where the character has to deal with problems in society or with a group of individuals.
Survival Conflict - For the horror genre, this is probably the most often used, but the main character is struggling to survive
And finally there is Situational Conflict - the main character has to deal with the struggles within a particular situation or conditions put in place by outside influences such as the problems, conflicts or ambitions of other characters.

There is nothing new here.  You can find this information in any book on writing.  What I want to do, however, is take this one step further.

Let's create sample conflict and build a story from that conflict.  Once you do this the story will essentially write itself.

Our character in this sample story is Andy Beckett.  Andy is a historian and archeologist but he is also terrified of heights.
So guess what, a software tycoon, by the name of Robert Plackard, has found a unique object on hidden high above sea level on the rocky mountains of Ararat.  Plackard believes that he has found the lost Noah's ark.  Such a relic could be worth billions of dollars and he is willing to spare no expense for Beckett and a team of archeologists to scale the mountains investigate the find and if it is truly the ark.  They must bring back proof of its existence.

In that paragraph I have created two types of conflict.  First there is the internal conflict.  Andy is afraid of heights.  Then there is the situational conflict.  The ambition of Robert Plackard to force Andy up the mountain despite his fears to see this great discovery documented and riches of the treasure shared.
There is another internal conflict not mentioned:  Andy's fear of heights against his own ambition.

Now we weave the other conflict forms into the story.  
Relational Conflict - On the expedition is a woman named Sara and the two of them do not get along at first.  She finds him obnoxious and he finds her obtuse and impossible to work with.  But as the story moves along they wind up falling in love but he loses her in the end.
Social Conflict - The Turkish army want him off the mountain and have sent out an arrest party to remove him from the mountain.  Led by the tyrant Isoh Metuba, this Turkish army seeks not to arrest Andy but to assassinate him before he discovers the truth behind Noah's Ark.
Survival Conflict - Andy must evade the Turkish army only to discover that Noah's ark is buried within the mountain face and it is guarded by a large and ferocious man beast, similar to a Big Foot or Yetti.

When you work within the confines of the conflict, you can construct a story that will captivate readers and if published, fly off the bookshelves.  

The goal of every writer is to create a story that everyone wants to read.  Utilizing conflict gives the story a human dimension that readers will enjoy.  Without it you have only black letters on white paper, organized into proper grammar and a story about as interesting as this lecture.  

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Added on February 8, 2010
Last Updated on February 8, 2010

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Casper Cross
Casper Cross

Nashville, TN

A writer of scary stories