Story Stuff: C Is For Conflict

For day three of our series, we’ll be discussing one of my favorite story elements, because it makes the story world go ’round: conflict.


In most basic terms, conflict is a fight. I talked about types of conflict, including man vs. man and man vs. self, in this post. In this post, I described how to take conflict up another notch. For example, in a man vs. man situation, you can make things worse for the protag by making him choose between two equally bad options.

All stories, regardless of genre, live and breathe on conflict. We read to see if the heroine resolves the injustice, if the hero overcomes his guilt and falls for the woman, or if the hunter can survive in the wilderness. Conflict begets new and different forms of conflict until the climax, when the primary conflict is resolved. We want our protags to earn their happily ever afters, and every step of the way must be difficult.

rocks quote

A character’s agency is what drives him, and conflict is what gets in the way. Often, my writing partners and I will discuss scenes that need more “rocks,” referring to the quote. Anything that makes the reader say, “Well, that was easy/convenient” must be scrutinized. Not only does conflict drive the story by making the protag resolve or adapt to it, it reveals character by showing how the protag resolves and adapts. Conflict is what keeps readers up past their bedtimes.

What kinds of conflict do you enjoy reading and/or writing?

14 thoughts on “Story Stuff: C Is For Conflict

  1. Pingback: Story Stuff: V Is For Victory | Allison Maruska

  2. Earn it – that’s great way to explain why conflict is necessary.

    Man goes to store and comes back with ice cream he shares with his daughter?

    Nice. But YAWN.

    Man realizes daughter has been stung by bee and rushes into house to get Epi-Pen, finds none and glances at clock, realizes it’s ten minute to five PM – the nearest drug store closes at five – races to car and car won’t start, gets car started and speeds down road. Gets shot at because man is secretly an undercover agent for the CIA and the foreign spies have found him…

    MEANWHILE, the drug store owner stretches and decides it’s been a slow day, might as well close early and go home to catch the ball game…

    The bad guys shoot out the man’s tire.

    The man fires his gun over his shoulder at the bad guys while trying to keep his car on the road.

    The daughter gasps for breath.

    Rocks, baby. Rocks.

    (By the way, he crashes his out of control car into another vehicle as he careens into the drug store parking lot. That’s the owner, who gets the Epi-Pen, and the daughter is saved. To ease their obvious stress, the owner gets them some ice cream, which the man shares with his daughter.)

    No yawns. Because earned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, the author’s job is to make the character suffer and watch him squirm (because people are sick freaks and get off on that kind of stuff). If the characterization is thorough, the character will come to life and expend great effort to come up with ingenious ways in which to save himself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Blogging From A to Z Challenge – Theme Reveal! | Allison Maruska

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