A 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.
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:
17 thoughts on “I is for Internal Conflict”
This is great! I love your tips followed by examples. It makes it all so clear-cut and helpful. 🙂 *runs off to put it into practice*
That’s awesome, Donna! And your “I” post has inspired me to lock my internal editor in the basement of my mind for the afternoon. Thanks!
Internal conflict is my favorite part of writing the story. 🙂 It’s so fun to feel the gears turning inside the character.
True! And it’s still something I’m honing in my current WIP. I’m learning so much about Internal Conflict I feel a follow-up post coming on in May. 😉
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.
K for kittens? I have to remember to stop back on Monday for that!
I think these tips are good for life as well as for writing. Nice to visit you on the A-Z!
Thanks, Lorrie! I never thought about applying writing tips to life, but then again I’m not a shrink. 😉
I’m excited to see an A to Z theme on the craft of writing. I’ll be following!
Yay! So glad you found us!
I’m excited for “K” day. I’d love to see how kittens & writing craft relate!
Ha! Thanks, Sabina. I’d better get writing it then…
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 🙂
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!
Hi there – Thanks! I’m learning so much from you this month. 🙂
Glad to hear it! 🙂