Fiction Friday: 4 Reasons Conflict is an Essential Tool for Your Characters

Image courtest of stockimages /

Image courtesy of stockimages /

When creating a story, whether you’re a planner or a pantser, you know about the importance of conflict.

Conflict drives the story, right? Stories are told through a series of scenes and sequels (sometimes called ‘scene and summary’ or ‘scene and sequence’). Scenes require conflict.

In real life, many people think of conflict is a bad thing and tend to avoid it. People also avoid doing many things that characters in books can do, for how many people do you know have actually jumped out of a speeding train, flew on a broomstick, or competed in life and death, hand-to-hand combat in an arena?

Conflict is what makes stories so interesting. Writers can never avoid it.

The four reasons conflict is essential:

1. Conflict drives the story – which is the effect that events have on character:

Conflict occurs when a character’s desires or wants are out of alignment with something or someone in their world. Conflict doesn’t have to be combative, like you’d find in an action film.  Conflict can occur within the character, with other characters in the story, or with the character’s environment or world. It could be bold action, like a sword fight, or as simple as one character asking another for a favor that he or she doesn’t want to give.

2. Conflict defines your characters:

Conflict is an opportunity for the character to learn more about himself or herself and take control of the situation. If however, that character goes into fear, resists change (because fear can shut people down) that says a lot about character too, doesn’t it? If a character is afraid, he or she won’t even look at the cause of conflict. They might not even want to admit that there is conflict.

3. Conflict forces your characters to make choices:

The choices your characters make fosters growth or development.  Your characters actions and reactions to conflict in the story, can make your character stronger (by taking charge of the situation) or weaker (if he or she goes into fear). Experience changes people, and it must change your characters too, especially the main character.

4. Conflict is both internal and external:

Whether conflict is internal or external, there will always be elements of both, like there is in real life. People experience conflict all the time. Sometimes they don’t realize it. The impact of conflict on character creates the story. by making conflict both internal and external, your story and characters will be well-rounded.

If there is internal conflict, it will manifest on the external in some way (a girl may pick a fight with her boyfriend if she’s really unhappy with herself. Her argument with him may drive her to that realization, or she may continue to blame him and repeat the behavior, leaving it up to the reader to decide).

If there is conflict on the external, it also has an internal component. It’s important to take these into account as a writer.

As writers, it’s good to include both internal and external conflict in the story to make the characters seem more real.

I want to know about you. Did you find this article helpful in any way? Please comment below.

As a reader, what kind of conflict do you like to read? Do you prefer internally driven or externally driven conflict?

As writers, what type of conflict do you have the most trouble with?

4 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: 4 Reasons Conflict is an Essential Tool for Your Characters

  1. Mark Harris says:

    Conflict is the story. Conflict and interesting characters. They are the magic recipe that, if done right can spin a wonderful story out of exciting or urban ideas. Nice blog post.

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