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Types of Conflict and How to Apply Them

Conflict is one of the five elements of story, which I briefly explained here: How to Start Writing. Conflict is defined in literature as: a literary element that involves a struggled between two forces. According to the website Daily Writing Tips, there are 7 Types of Narrative Conflict. These 7 conflicts can be group into two categories: External and Internal.

External Conflict is when an outside force is in conflict with the protagonist.

Internal Conflict is when an inside force is in conflict with the protagonist, generally within themselves.

The line between these two categories can be blurred in some situations, like when it comes to faith and religion, which brings me to out first conflict. In a story you can have more than one type of conflict, and I actually encourage everyone to use multiple types of conflict. In our real lives we deal with many, if not all, of these conflicts at the same time. Your character should be dealing with similar conflicts, depending on their circumstances.

Character vs. Fate/God:

This is a conflict in which the character is at odds with their fate/destiny, or even with the God(s) they believe in that have control over their fate. This is an external conflict, because Fate and/or God is an outside force that the character struggles with. This can be seen as Character vs. Supernatural as well.

Character vs. Nature:

This is a conflict where your character struggles against the forces of nature, like natural disasters or even animals. This conflict is external and is generally used in survival stories. This conflict can also be used if your character is fighting for eternal young and immortality, since death and aging is a part natural part of life.

Character vs. Supernatural:

This is a struggle between a character and supernatural forces or beings. For example, a struggle between your protagonist and a poltergeist. This may also include God(s), Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Magic, and so on. This can be included with Character vs. Character if one or all characters have supernatural abilities.

Character vs. Society:

This is an external conflict between your character and society or representations of society. For example, your character is fighting for gay rights in an anti-gay society. A single character can be a representation of a society (or societal rules) that your character struggles against, for example: Your character fights against a tyrannical monarch. In this situation the conflict can be Character vs. Society and/or Character vs. Character. In your story if your character is trying to make a radical or large change in the world, not only for themselves, but for others, there is probably a conflict against society.

Character vs. Technology:

Simply put, this is a struggle between your character and some form of technology. For example, your character is fighting against an army of robots, or they are struggling against their addiction of candy crush. This can be applied in stories of hackers, science fiction, and any story where technology has taken of a negative role. This is generally an external conflict, but in the case of mind control technology, you can argue this to be an internal conflict as well, since the character would struggling to regain control other their own mind.

Character vs. Character:

This is the common conflict between your character and one or more other characters. Generally this is seen as protagonist(s) vs. antagonist(s) in the fight of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and light versus dark. This is typically an external conflict, but there are some strange situations where it can be seen as an internal conflict as well. For example, when a part of your character (like a split personality) takes on a physical body that your character has to fight against.

(SPOILER ALERT: the best example I can think of this is in Once Upon a Time when Regina struggles against the Evil Queen. They are technically the same person, but in two separate physical bodies.)

Character vs. Self:

This is the only true internal conflict in literature. This happens when your character struggles with themselves. It can be a struggle over faith, beliefs, or feelings. It can also be a struggle against a split personality, or voice in their head. Jekyll and Hyde is a great example of this.


Now you just need to figure out your main conflict. Keep in mind what type of conflict it is, what/who it is with, and WHY there is a conflict. What started the conflict? Why can’t it be resolved easily? How will the conflict be resolved? What problems does this conflict create? What other conflicts contribute to this conflict? And so on…

Remember: multiple conflicts creates interest and a more complex story.

IMPORTANT: Every plot and sub plot needs conflicts.

This is the basic information you need to know when it comes to conflict. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions for future blogs, comment below or contact me Here.

Thank you for reading,

-Lalia LaRose


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