Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.
— Wernher von Braun, Rocket Engineer
Conflict is the engine of every story, and there are two kinds: internal and external. Because we’re on the letter E, let’s examine the external type of conflict…
3 Tips for Writing External Conflict
– Most people talk about External Conflict as “pick one of the three types”, but I recommend using at least two to deepen your story.
Person vs. Person (i.e. hero vs villain, be it human or monster or machine)
Person vs. Nature (i.e. hero vs tornado or drought or space)
Person vs. Society (i.e. hero vs government or cult or industry)
– External conflict must have consequences. If your heroine fights with the antagonist, she can’t just get up the next day as if nothing happened. Conflict has to affect the story.
– External Conflict exacerbates the protagonist’s Internal Conflict. The two may be different, but they are linked.
Dystopian tales are great examples of external conflict. Not only is the protagonist battling individual antagonists, she’s also at odds with society and/or the regime. In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss faces all three external conflicts:
Katniss vs People – her opponents in the game
Katniss vs Nature – trackerjacks, fires, drought, floods in the game
Katniss vs Society – President Snow and his oppressive regime
Same thing with space stories, like STAR WARS:
Luke Skywalker vs Person – Darth Vader is the main antagonist.
Luke Skywalker vs Nature – Traveling through space is dangerous! Hello, asteroids! Not to mention they encounter some pretty inhospitable planets during their journey.
Luke Skywalker vs Society – Then there’s the big baddy, the Galatic Empire.
These stories all have individual villains, a corrupt society, and nature working against the hero.
1 Link for more help
Conflict is one of the most important ingredients to an engaging story. In this post – 3 Things That Keep Your Story on the Road, Not the Goat Path – I talk about how Change, Conflict & Stakes are needed in every scene.
It’s kind of a good all-encompassing post for my first three letters, since I talked about Character Change last post, and will talk about Stakes, specifically False Stakes, tomorrow. See you then!