How to Create Conflict in Your Story: Key to Plotting
How to Create Conflict in Your Story
Conflict is vital to any story. It is what keep the readers turning the pages. It’s the difference between a boring story where nothing happens ever to an interesting story.
Conflict can be internal. It doesn’t need to be a truck burning and smashing the protagonist’s car. It could be a failure, a desire that they can’t accomplish, an event that makes them internally sad.
Even in children’s book, there is conflict. It can be that the children lost their toy. It could be the children’s fear of their parent’s divorce. It could be that they are very shy and can’t make new friends!
I used to struggle with that. I really love literary fiction (where the conflicts tend to be more internal) but I just didn’t consider it to be a conflict. Since in fantasy, a lot of the conflicts are external (a villain wants to destroy the world), I couldn’t quite understand what would be considered a conflict or not.
But, now I do: a conflict is anything that drives your character to action. It’s the opposite of what they desire.
Verbs are the most important kind of words for a reason. They are the words that show what is happening. So, it’s the conflict. There’s a relation that I see with conflict and verbs.
You should always want conflict in your story.
And, as I told you, it could be anything:
- A dragon attacked the city
- A girl sees that her boyfriend cheated on her
- Someone was diagnosed with cancer
- The car engine is broken so the person won’t get to work in time
- Depression is coming again and it’s making the character desperate
- Best friends fought over a cupcake
- The movie that the lovers saw at the cinema was boring and awkward
- Aliens invaded Earth
- You were kidnapped
- Your kids’ birthday party was ruined by the rain
- Anxiety is growing as your tests come closer
Real life is full of conflict. All the time. Every day we are faced with it.
- As an exercise on conflict, I want you to imagine your daily life.
List the conflicts that you faced today. I start, in order to help you:
1. For most of us, the first conflict of the day is when the alarm clock rings. You don’t want to get up! This is a conflict.
2. Another conflict: you start to think about everything you’ll have to face during the day. Anxiety. Internal conflict.
3. Maybe you have to get your kids ready to school and they are not the most cooperative. Maybe your shower is broken. Maybe you only have one egg in the fridge and you have to find more food.
Do you see? There are a lot of different kinds of conflict.
Your character should face them constantly.
A word about attitude: create conflict in your story
I always say that. Your reading is living through your character during the book.
A character can face millions of conflict. What will make them an annoying character is their attitude in front of the conflict!
Usually, readers like when the character loses some and wins some.
They can HATE going through a challenge, but they will face it and succeed. Yas!
Or they could start crying, hide, not face the challenge, lose, and complain through 300 pages.
Which do you think would be best for the readers?
The readers want to feel stuff. They want to laugh, cry, live an adventure, think about a message.
Your character’s attitude in front of conflict changes everything. It changes the tone of the book.
Think of your character almost like a real person. We suffer, but we love, we laugh too.
Remember that a character that ONLY suffers will make the reader ONLY suffer too. Unless your genre and public want that, you might let your character win some conflicts.
And lose others. Nobody likes the ones that only win, win, win.
Think about your life. It could be from childhood through teens, adult life. Which conflicts do you have to face?
I know some people don’t like to think about that. It’s hard.
However, it’s good to write about your conflicts. People will identify themselves with that. You can disguise it with fantasy. A dragon destroying the city could be your abusive mom destroying your home.
It is very, very hard.
But this is what gives spice to the book.
Of course, respect your limits, don’t go to places that you can’t. You can also list small conflicts as you stepped in dog’s poo in your way to work. How did you deal with it? How would your character deal with it?
Conflict is key for the plot: create conflict in your story
Conflict is what get you from one scene to the other. Many writers end the scene in the middle of a conflict. People think: OH, NO, WHAT, I NEED TO KNOW HOW THIS CONFLICT IS SOLVED!
And, then, they turn the page. And read more.
Like I told you, it doesn’t need to be gigantic conflicts. We have them all the time. They can be one thought. A memory.
Solving major conflicts is also how the plot advances. The character is faced with a challenge. Now, they have to deal with it and solve it. What will they do?
This is when the story starts and keeps going. This is how you show your character’s personality and the worldbuilding.
I often hear people saying that they have amazing characters and a cool world, but they don’t have a story.
Give these amazing characters a lot of conflicts and how they will solve them. This is how you get and plot a story.
I also had this problem before I understood conflict.
Tolkien really wanted to show Middle-Earth in his book. Showing the world was one of his priorities. Is Lord of The Rings an endless description? No, there’s a quest full of conflicts. Because this is how you will construct your story. Conflict after conflict, your character’s attitude with the conflict and how it was solved (or not).