I is for Internal Conflict

BLAST_IA couple letters ago, I talked about External Conflict – all those forces in the universe that are bumping up against the protagonist. Now we’ll discuss Internal Conflict – the sometimes black hole of doubt within the hero. Like External Conflict, Internal Conflict must get in the way of the hero achieving his goal. Most importantly, Internal Conflict forces the hero to make hard choices.

3 Tips for Writing Internal Conflict

  • Find your hero’s flaw. Inner conflict often arises from a character flaw. This is common in superhero stories where the hero has a powerful ability he can’t always control. So he’s always conflicted about using this power to achieve his goal, weighing how much it can help versus how much it can hurt. 

  • Use your hero’s fear. Fears make great internal conflicts, and can be anything from a fear of heights to a fear of failure, as long as this fear makes it difficult for the hero to achieve his goal.

  • Challenge your hero’s morality. Characters with beliefs that counteract their goals are always interesting to read! War stories and crime dramas often feature heroes that are morally at odds with their situation.

2 Examples

FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe features a character brimming with internal conflict. First of all, she’s a recovering drug addict, and this daily struggle affects every aspect of the story. Second, her and her dead best friend share a secret that causes her a lot of emotional pain. Third, her attraction to her dead friend’s brother gives her all kinds of conflicting feelings. A character so full of flaws, fears and confused morality makes for a great read!

HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME by Kirsten Miller has a fascinating protagonist fighting to maintain his moral standards at a school for psychopaths. Now that’s some powerful inner and outer conflict!

1 Link for more help

Since Inner Conflict is the basis of a great character arc, here’s a post on How To Create A Character Arc using what we talked about in this post: flaws, secrets, fears and morals.

And in case you’re just dropping in now, here’s our April A to Z list thus far:

A is for Antagonist

B is for Backstory

C is for Character Change

D is for Dialogue

E is for External Conflict

F is for False Stakes

G is for Genre

H is for Hero

Coming up:

J is for Juxtaposition

K is for Kittens!

Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

17 thoughts on “I is for Internal Conflict”

  1. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge 2015!
    Great post. I’m following you on your listed social media sites.

    Internal conflict is so very vital to the story. The question I hear most often about it is working it in when the story is written from third person. Your example of drug addiction overcoming is a great one when explaining this concept.

    Well done.

    K for kittens? I have to remember to stop back on Monday for that!

  2. I love inner conflict and the things our characters battle with. It’s especially exciting when characters fight their inner demons and win, and as a reader this is one of the best things about character development 🙂

    1. It’s one of my favourite things too! If the hero just wins an external battle but doesn’t overcome anything personal, it feels like half a story. The internal battle is just as important to this reader!

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