Monday, September 21, 2015

Writing Basics: Internal v. External Conflict

Okay. So you have the exposition of your story down. What is next?

Once you have laid the framework for your story's world (Where is it? Who are your primary characters? etc.), you need to introduce a conflict.

What is conflict, and why do you need it?

Conflict is a struggle between two opposing forces. Great, we've got that down! You may still be wondering: Why do I need to put conflict into my story? Remember my post about the six stages of plot? There was this neat little diagram. It looked something kind of like this:
See how the rising action doesn't start until after the conflict introduction? That is because the conflict is the source of action in your story. Without a conflict, you are left in the exposition stage. And trust me, no matter how great you are at worldbuilding, readers are going to put your novel/short story down if there is nothing going on other than great worldbuilding.

This is where having a source of conflict comes in handy.

Conflict is the source of all of the action in your story. It is the reason your hero goes on a quest (at which point, s/he will probably encounter many smaller conflicts) and has the experiences that, as a whole, make up the sequence of events that form your plot.

So . . .  conflict is a big deal. The importance of conflict in your story doesn't stop there; you also have to choose a type of conflict. There are two primary types of conflict: internal and external.

Internal conflict is exactly what it sounds like: a conflict that happens within the character.

Image: Evil Erin via Flickr. I do not own this image.

This type of conflict manifests itself most often as a struggle to make an important decision. Though it sounds simple, internal conflict can be a great, potentially-untapped resource for you as a writer: internal conflict opens the door for a wealth of internal reflection, inner arguments, and lengthy self-analyses. You could utilize all of these techniques as ways to show your reader who your character is.

External conflict is, again, self-explanatory: conflict that takes place outside of the character.

Image: Angampora sword fighting. I do not own this image.

There are many different types of conflict, which we will get into in-depth in another post. Suffice it to say right now that external conflict most often takes place between the character and an external force, like the antagonist.

What are your thoughts on conflict?
Do you prefer to utilize one particular type of conflict, or do you prefer a nice blend of the two?

1 comment:

Adil Vp said...

Conflict is the Soul of the Plot, I think, for it serves as a reason for our characters to exist and serves as an excellent reason for the readers to stick with the Book. If I'm to write a book I would prefer a nice blend of the two :)