Conflict is a struggle or clash between two opposing forces. Opposing forces can be:
- individual people such as family members, neighbors
- ideals, ideas, opinions,
- wishes or impulses
- physical forces
The ability to spot and sense conflict is a great asset to writer. Anyone can see armies firing rockets at each other on a newscast, or one boy hit another after school. It takes a more perceptive mind to see the conflict between two people who, on the surface, like each other.
You might see it in shoulder tension, in lack of eye contact, in a quick turning aside or in word choice – words that were unusually careful, or not careful enough.
In a lot of fiction today – sci-fi, fantasy – we see overt conflict. It can be bombs, sword fights, gun battles, but you see the conflict happening and it’s right in your face.
But in a lot of our work the conflict we portray is not overt. It is revealed slowly through dialog and juxtaposition of events and actions. Sometimes the strongest conflict is the internal conflict – one person fighting the forces within.
Even the basic ‘good versus evil’ conflict is intensified when fought within the confines of one person. Ideas – the practical versus the spiritual, for example – take on deeper meaning if the thoughts are battling in one mind.
Often the conflict is “I want to,” versus “I shouldn’t” – “I want that new TV but I shouldn’t max out my credit card.”
Or it is “I want to,” versus “I don’t think I can” – “I want to ask that girl for a date but I’m pretty sure she won’t go out with me.”
You can take the seven deadly sins and re-write them in plot form (although some work better than others in our time)
Anger -“I’m so ticked off at my wife that I’m thinking of leaving her. I’ll miss the kids but it will teach her a lesson.”
Greed – I want all the money from my grandfather’s estate. Watch me scam my cousins out of their share.”
Sloth – “Why should I take the trash out when I’m so comfy watching the football game?”
Pride – “I love my new job as sales manager. I’m going to show those salesmen just who’s boss.”
Lust -“He’s a hunk! How can I get him to notice me? Tight dress? Blonde highlights? Stall my car in front of his house?”
Envy – “I should have got that promotion. I deserve it! I’m going to set out to make my new boss’s life miserable.
Gluttony – “I’m going to run an oil pipeline through that pristine forest. It will make me rich.”
Al of these set up clashes and conflicts from which stories can be built. The imagination takes over and you’ve got ideas aplenty. You’re a writer!