Searching for Conflict

As important as character development and plotting may be, without a conflict to drive the story forward – well, there really is no story. So here are some ideas to help you find a page-turning conflict.

Consider what kind of conflict your story will include. Although some may overlap at times, there are seven basic kinds of conflict. You’ll need to know what your driving conflict is as much as you know your characters and the plot. No doubt, your story’s conflict will fit into one of these categories. When planning the conflict for your story consider one of these areas.

  • Man vs. Self – This may arguably be the most intense form of conflict, but yet most can identify with it. Everything rides on the outcome.
  • Man vs. Man – No doubt, this is the most common form of conflict, and the odds are increased as there are more than one person placed at risk – even if that person is the villain of your story.
  • Man vs. Society – A much bigger scope with much to lose if your character is unsuccessful.
  • Man vs. Nature – Raw nature is very powerful and must be overcome by an equal if not superior power to survive.
  • Man vs. Machine – Of course somewhere along the line, a man invented the machine that is causing conflict. It pits intelligence against intelligence. In today’s world, technolgy is hard to beat.
  • Man vs. Fate/Supernatural – This leaves the door opened for so many possibilies. What will be will be – or will it?
  • Man vs. the unknown – Think outer space aliens. Think unexplored wilderness, which may also include nature. Think about the future.

If readers care about the result of your story conflict, they will keep reading to find out what happens. So the obvious question is, What makes readers care? I believe this is the reason your readers will care. The readers identify with your character — in other words, readers imagine themselves in your character’s place. Readers tend to identify with the viewpoint character and feel as if they’re resolving the story’s conflict along with him or her. They’ve not resolved the conflict until your character does.

Here are some ways to turn a character idea into an idea for conflict. And the good thing is you can use these ideas over and over in different combinations to create new characters and conflicts. 

  • Is there something your character desires or wants to accomplish? Imagine that  your character is in a position to obtain his desire, but what are the roadblocks that easily prevent him/her from doing so.
  • Give your character an important goal to reach, and give her/him a deep-seated fear that s/he will have to face to make the goal. 
  • Give your character someone to hate. Then involve the two in a struggle (possibly a struggle that will change both of them).
  • Imagine the opposite. Who is someone your character loves?  Imagine a situation which threatens to cut your character off from this person.  What is the response of your character?
  • Give your character a major weakness. Then involve him a pursuit that if he is to acheive it, s/he must overcome the weakness.
  • Put your character in a situation that s/he doesn’t know about himself  or herself and s/he is about to ruin his or her life, unless the character is capable of making drastic changes.
  • Give your character two or more people to deeply care about. What happens when you introcuce a situation in which your character must choose between one or another.

Give some things a try. Let me know how you make out!

2 thoughts on “Searching for Conflict

  1. That’s exciting, Tamara!!! I’m one of those that writes from the heart, so I’d say if your interest is in poetry, go for it. Fiction doesn’t sell all that well either, but that’s what I love to do. If you want to sell a lot of books, I might suggest writing a factual book on a topic that interests you.

    I used to use CreateSpace which is now Kindle Direct Publishing. By far, I’ve found it is the easiest to use and gives the most bang for the buck. I am familiar with Lulu but have found it to be quite a bit more expensive. Both are free, to publish but you need to buy your books. KDP is cheaper and the difference between author price and retail is quite a bit bigger, which means your profit is bigger. Hope that helps!


  2. This is such a helpful post for me, Bill, as I am trying to figure out what I want my book to be about. I have many ideas, but need to stick to just one subject at a time.

    I have thought of a book of poems, although I know poetry isn’t as popular as stories and novels. Poetry just happens to be where my passion is most pin-pointed toward.

    I have thought of publishing with Lulu, or Amazon. Do you have a preference? I have asked other writers, and some go with Amazon, and others go with Lulu. I’m sure there are others, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.