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Types of Conflict and Why Your Story Needs It!

How interesting can a story be without struggles or opposing forces?

As an author, you should be adept at writing conflict into your stories. Conflict is a type of literary device that provides your story with crucial tension that will keep your readers at the edge of their seats. Read on to discover more!

 

Why is Writing Conflict Important for You to Learn?

 

Conflict is characterized by a struggle that exists between two or more opposing forces. The characters in your story must do something to overcome this conflict. These actions drive your narrative forward.

There are two main types of conflict, which can be further broken down into their own subtypes. You'll learn more about internal and external conflict later. For now, let's go through some of the reasons why conflict is an essential part of any tale.

It Makes Your Story More Interesting

The moment a character in a story encounters conflict, the readers immediately feel interested. This is true no matter where the conflict happens in the story or if it happens more than once.

If you would like to share something valuable to your readers about life, you can use conflict to convey this message. This is also the best way for you to breathe life into your tale as it unfolds with every turn of the page.

As you present opposing goals, belief systems, or wants, your readers will automatically (and sometimes unconsciously) start rooting for your characters. Conflict is the element in your story that will keep your readers hooked, so you should think about it carefully!

It Drives Your Story Forward

If you're wondering what conflict is in a book, it is the element that will drive your story forward. As the conflict becomes more intense and your characters are locked in a difficult struggle, your readers will feel the same way.

They will turn the pages frantically as they will want and need to know what happens next. And they will keep reading until they reach the part where the conflict is resolved. By then, your readers will have reached the end of the story.

Or they would reach another turning point in your story wherein the character is presented with another challenging situation. If you want to create a page-turner, adding this element is key.

It Makes Your Characters Stronger and More Relatable

While it seems like writing conflict only affects the plot, there is more to it than that. As you introduce this element into your story, it will strengthen your characters and make them more relatable to your readers.

For instance, if you write about a college student (the main character) who experiences bullying (the conflict) and rises above it, this will strengthen the whole persona of your character.

Any readers who have also experienced bullying will definitely relate to such a character. And when they reach the part where your main character overcomes their challenge, your readers will feel like they succeeded too.

No matter what genre you're writing, the conflict will add depth to your characters. With each challenge they overcome, they will grow stronger. When you think about it, the same thing happens in real life, right?

It Adds Entertainment Value

Finally, conflict will make your story more entertaining too. This is why conflict is considered one of the most important elements of a great story. Without challenges, your readers will end up feeling bored.

The great thing about conflict is that it doesn't have to be dark, brooding, or heart-wrenching all the time. There can be positive types of conflict too.

One example is a woman who must choose between two careers: one that pays well and one she's passionate about. You can make the situations as subtle or as extreme as you want them to be. As long as conflict exists, your readers will be entertained.

After understanding why you need to add this story element to your writing, you can start brainstorming. Think of a conflict (or conflicts) that your story will revolve around. One that will make your story more compelling from start to end.

conflict in writing

The Different Types of Conflict

If someone asks you, “Why does a story need conflict?” it will be easier to provide a good answer if you know the different types of conflict that can exist in stories. The two main types of conflict are external and internal conflict.

The former refers to any obstacle that a character encounters in the outside world. The latter refers to the emotional or internal obstacles that the character encounters. Within these two main types of conflict are more specific types that you can use:

Character Versus Self

This is the only type of conflict that is considered internal as the character faces a struggle within himself or herself. Characters who get stuck in an intense battle with themselves invoke empathy in readers.

The internal struggle happens when there is some form of debate within the character. This can come from the duties, fears, desires, or expectations of the character, or a combination of these factors.

For a character to overcome their conflict, they need to make a choice. And usually, the choice isn't easy. Some great examples of character versus self conflict can be seen in The Call of the Wild by Jack London and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Character Versus Character

This type occurs when the conflict pits the main character against one of the other characters in the story. It's the most common type of conflict you will see in books and movies.

Usually, this type of conflict happens between the protagonist and antagonist in the story. They struggle over something throughout the story until one gains victory over the other.

There are also stories that offer a surprising twist where the main characters suddenly find themselves in conflict with someone who is supposed to be on their side. Such a situation is still considered character versus character although it's not as common.

You can see this classic type of conflict in books and films. It's so common and yet, people still enjoy it. Some examples of stories that show character versus character conflict include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

Character Versus Fate

When characters find themselves trapped by a destiny that they cannot escape from, this type of conflict comes into play. In such a situation, free will and freedom seem to be nothing but impossible aspirations for the characters.

Often, this type of conflict also involves gods, prophecies, and other situations where divine intervention plays a role. In these stories, the characters don't have a choice. They simply follow the path laid before them.

This is quite common in Greek tragedies but you can also see them in more modern works such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Character Versus Society

When writing conflict, you can also make your character get into a struggle with a collective group such as society. The group can also come in the form of:

  • systemic corruption
  • authority figures
  • adults trying to control the lives of a teenager
  • a cult or a religious organization
  • a cruel or oppressive government

Characters who experience this type of conflict feel pressure to change themselves and fit the norm. The characters can either give in or fight back until they overcome the situation they are in.

This type of conflict is becoming more popular these days, especially in fiction books. Some examples of character versus fiction include The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Character Versus Nature

For this type, the character—often along with the rest of humanity—comes up against Mother Nature. It's a battle of survival against a force that is both apathetic and unstoppable.

The main character either tries to dominate nature or is forced to confront it. Either way, stories that involve this type of conflict are typically action-packed. These are page-turners that make the heart race with each plot twist.

Of course, there are also some character versus nature stories that have a more profound message to share such as The Martian by Andy Weir and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Character Versus Supernatural Forces

This type of conflict happens when characters face something that neither science nor logic can explain. Stories like these can focus on real-life events while capitalizing on human fears or they can be fantastical and mysterious.

Often, the main character in stories with this type of conflict battle against aliens, ghosts, demons, and the like. Some examples of stories with a character versus supernatural forces conflict are The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

Character Versus Technology

In the past, technology wasn't always as integrated into our lives as it is now. Despite this, conflicts that involve technology have existed in stories since the past.

Usually, these stories also have concepts like greed, a thirst for immortality, and the like. You can see this conflict in stories like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick.

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Why Does a Story Need Conflict and How Do I Add It?

Understanding the reasons why you need to add conflict to your stories is one thing and knowing the different types of conflict is another. But actually adding this element into your story can be a challenge.

If you have a great story idea that you want to refine, you can hire a professional ghostwriter to help you out. Then you can use these clever tips to add compelling conflict to your story:

  • Decide which type of conflict fits into your story idea.
  • Create powerful and relatable characters for your story who have clear goals, beliefs, or dreams.
  • Think about how the conflict will present itself for the first time.
  • Use subplots to strengthen the conflict and raise the stakes.
  • Allow your characters to fail at some point.
  • Add more conflicts if you think your story needs it.

Since conflicts will bring your story to life, you need to spend a lot of time thinking about this element. Once you have an idea for your conflict, keep refining it until it suits your story perfectly.

Final Words: Start Creating Your Story’s Conflict Now!

Now that you know the significance of conflicts in stories, it's time to start brainstorming. Come up with your reason for adding conflict, then start thinking about what that conflict is going to be. This will improve your writing immensely, which will then catch the attention of your target audience.

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