Question: I would like to see a more comprehensive webinar on writing CONFLICT in fiction.



Thank you for the suggestion. This is something we will consider, as conflict is an essential element in any good story.

Conflict arises when your main character, the “protagonist”, faces opposition in reaching his or her desired goals or needs. The opposing force can take on many forms and is called the “antagonist”.

It’s important to be clear about what your main character wants early on in your story and what is stopping that character. If there is nothing at stake and your main character doesn’t have to fight to get to his or her desired ending, your story won’t matter to readers and they will quickly lose interest.

Conflict provides necessary tension, adds depth to your characters, and moves your story forward.

Mental health issues are just one type of internal conflict that your book character might face.Types of Conflict


There is one type of internal conflict in writing – Character vs. Self. The opposition your character faces comes from within and can include struggles with morality, mental health, or a physical disability. This type of conflict causes a psychological battle, driven by your character’s emotions, fears, or conflicting desires. Your character is his or her own worst enemy.

Example: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis  


If your main character struggles with something or someone beyond his or her control, it is considered an external conflict. There are 5 types of external conflict in writing:

Character vs. Character: Your main character’s needs or wants are at odds with another character’s. This conflict can be written as a physical fight or as an ongoing power struggle.

Example: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Character vs. Nature: The opposition in this conflict can be the weather, the wilderness, or a natural disaster.

Example: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Character vs character and character vs society are two types of external conflict in a novel.Character vs. Supernatural: Pitting characters against phenomena like ghosts, gods, fate, or monsters raises the stakes by creating an unequal playing field.

Example: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Character vs. Technology: Commonly used in science fiction storytelling, your main character is in conflict with some kind of technology or artificial intelligence.

Example: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Character vs. Society: This type of conflict occurs when your main character is in opposition with society, the government, a cultural tradition, or a societal norm.

Example: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Stories can and should contain multiple antagonists or opposing forces. Life includes both internal and external struggles, so writing both into your story will make it authentic and relatable.

To figure out the conflict direction for your story, first determine what your main character’s goals, desires, or needs are. Then brainstorm what could prevent your character from obtaining these things. You will start to see potential plot points falling into place.

Don’t Forget to Resolve Your Conflict

An important part of creating conflict for your main character is providing a resolution. No matter what, your story needs to have some sort of satisfying conclusion for your readers. Even if you don’t want to wrap everything up—maybe you want to leave room for a sequel, for example—most of the conflict and questions you introduced should be resolved by the end of your book. Your protagonist should undergo some changes and at least get a little closer to reaching his or her goal. If your story’s ending doesn’t feel complete, you are likely to leave your readers incredibly frustrated.

Conflict must be a part of your narrative arc to give your story a clear beginning, middle, and ending. It deepens reader engagement, provides richer meaning, and helps drive your story or plot forward. For more on this topic, visit this section on the ALC website.