Friday 17 April 2015

How Conflict Fuels Your Story

"Conflict is denying the character his or her goal." (Rebecca Talley)

According to blogger Francis Reid Roland ( , each scene needs a main character.  Each main character needs a goal. Without a goal, without a villain or circumstance preventing the protagonist from reaching that goal, there is no conflict.  The reader wants to route for the protagonist to reach his goal. Give the reader what he wants.  

Ms. Roland recommends writing out each scene on an index card with three things:  a goal, a conflict (someone or something preventing the protagonist from reaching his goal) and a result (the regression or even disaster that ensues).  Lay the index cards out in order enabling you to see where in your story there is little or no conflict.  

Blogger Rebecca Talley lists seven types of conflict.  They are:

1.  person vs fate

The Odyssey is a good example of a book exemplifying this type of conflict.  Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut is another example.

2.  person vs self

The protagonist is fighting against his own prejudices, doubts or inner conflict.  Koala Lou by Mem Fox is a good example of this conflict.  Shakespeare's Hamlet is another example of person vs. self. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is yet another.

3.  person vs person

My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco is one example.  The hero fights the villain in The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Mathis.  The Nedley Papers by Scott Zibsendale is another example.

4.  person vs society

a.  triumph over corruption ex. Lewis R. Foster's The Gentleman from Montana (unpublished) which was adapted as the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is another example.

b.  reject society ex. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

c.  succumb to corruption ex. George Orwell's 1984; Diary of Anne Frank; Suzanne Lieurance's The Lucky Baseball 

5.  person vs technology

The protagonist uses technology to gain power.  Technology becomes a bad influence on society as in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  Isaac Asimov's I, Robot is another example.  

6.  person vs nature

Robinson Crusoe features a family trapped on a desert island.  Moby Dick features a captain battling a whale.  Coyote Cry by Balor Byrd features the main character fighting a coyote.  Into Thin Air tells the story of a group of mountain climbers tackling Everest.

7.  person vs supernatural

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a good example of this type of conflict.

Layer the conflict into your story the way a scout layers his fire with twigs and brush.  Let the conflict fuel your story.  If you're lucky, a strong wind will pick up and before you know, you'll have a roaring fire -- the kind that everyone will pull up a chair and roast marshmallows at.

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