TAP009, The 5 Types of Story Conflict
When you first flesh out a story idea, it’s perfectly natural to discover that your story is lacking conflict. Quite often when you create a story, you create the entire story in my layers. So, you flesh out the story idea, after this you outline, then revise your outline, and you’ll go through and add more conflict into the story. This experience is perfectly normal. So, don’t think that if your story idea is lacking conflict in its initial stages of conception, then it’s a terrible idea. It isn’t bad; you just need to add more conflict to your story. So in this episode, I’m going to share with you the five types of story conflict.
So, let’s get started.
Why is conflict in a story, so important?
The importance of conflict comes down to this; no one wants to read a story about a character going through the motions and living an ordinary life. This type of story is boring. When you consider how you live your life, you will discover, that it’s moments of conflict in your life, which encourage you to take action. The same should be true for your character’s.
Have you noticed that nothing seems to go as planned in life? Usually, your plans have unexpected outcomes. The people around you have different motivations, and quite often these motivations can be in conflict with what you want. There is a whole heap of things in life that are outside of your control. All of these elements are forms of conflict or obstacles that get in your way.
The 5 Types of Story Conflict
There are 5 types of story conflict that you could incorporate into a story. These types of conflict tend to fall into two categories.
So, with internal conflict, you have one type, and this is man versus self.
Man vs Self
This kind of conflict is the internal struggle that we can all relate too. It’s what sets us apart from all other species. An internal conflict is what will make your characters relatable. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing literary fiction or genre fiction, you still need to have an element of this type of internal struggle in your story.
If your characters are younger, and they’re attempting to discover who they are, or maybe they’ve figured this out and aren’t comfortable. Usually, this takes the form of someone trying to fit into a mould the protagonist was never meant to fit in. The man vs self, conflict can often be a struggle with self-acceptance. Sometimes an internal struggle can focus on a reaction to an action taken in the moment of desperation. In these moments, a character might take action and later reflect and think ‘does this make me a bad person?’
Another example of man versus self is that internal struggle a character might have when they clash with another character. They may struggle to accept or even like the other person for who they are; a more sensitive character who struggles with this internally.
So, external conflict is the most prominent of the two types of conflict. There are four types of external conflict in a story. These are as follows:
- Man vs Society, Government, or Organisation
- Man vs Man
- Man vs Supernatural
- Man vs Nature
Man vs Society
The man vs society conflict is seen in books like the Divergent series or the Hunger Games where you have a bunch of teenagers vs a government or organisation. Sometimes this type of conflict can be a man vs a religious group like the Catholic church. The most famous example of this in the Davinci Code. In this book, the central conflict consists of the protagonist, Robert Langdon vs a division of the Catholic church. This sect, Opus Dei, through the single actions of a few people, attempt to cover up the truth behind the Mary Magdalene conspiracy.
Man vs Man
This type of conflict focuses on the relationships your protagonist has will other people. Perhaps your protagonist has someone in their life that drives them up the wall. This personal conflict only centres on what everyone surrounding them can see.
An example of this is, perhaps your character cannot physically hide their dislike for another character. A man vs man conflict is something quite prevalent in the romance genre. For instance, a girl meets a guy. The girl thinks he’s the most irritating person on the planet, but the guy is smitten with her.
The most important example of the man vs man conflict is your protagonist vs antagonist relationship, especially if the antagonist is a person. Your protagonist wants to find a quick solution to this problem, and your antagonist seeks to achieve this goal which is creating the problem for a valid reason. Usually, the motivations of these two characters are opposites which result in a significant clash in your story.
Man vs Supernatural
I must confess, I do read quite a few religious conspiracy thrillers. It’s in this sub-genre where you see this man vs supernatural conflict. Within a man vs supernatural conflict, your protagonist is trying to stop a particular person from fulfilling a prophecy. This person is usually momentarily successful, and as a result, they unleash a supernatural being or occurrence.
For instance, in J. F. Penn’s Arkane thriller novel, Stone of Fire. The main characters, Morgan and Jake, attempt to stop an individual from putting together a collection of stones that were present at Jesus’ resurrection and carried by the twelve apostles. These stones give the villain supernatural powers. The idea is these stones will unleash a supernatural occurrence which could end lives, and it’s up to Morgan and Jake to stop this from happening.
Man vs Nature
The man vs nature type of conflict is used at those end of the world as we know it books and movies. In this conflict, the protagonist is usually a scientist like Dennis Quaid’s in character in The Day After Tomorrow. In this film, Dennis Quaid shares a theory about the disturbance of the ocean current, which is responsible for the freak weather at the start of the film. His predictions are ignored, and the ice age starts much earlier than expected.
Another example of this the movie Dante’s Peak. In this film, a scientist notices activity within the supposedly dormant volcano that the small town of Dante’s Peak is named after. Naturally, the warnings are ignored, and the volcano explodes. And, the final act is a race for survival. It’s mother nature vs man. In these movies and books, it’s almost as if mother nature is seeking revenge.
So, are you struggling to create conflict in your story?
I want to hear from you. Let me know by sharing your thoughts and experiences with creating conflict in the comments section below.
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I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.