A discussion on conflict
Imagine a picnic that went perfect, where a person sets up in a field, eats lunch, packs up, then leaves. It is so boring because there is no conflict. Now, add some fire ants, a hungry bear, and a lost set of car keys, and you’ve got a story with conflict! Attached you will find a diagram explaining the different types of conflict. What I want you to do is to create a story where you know the conflict before you begin to write. You need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Will the main character win, lose, or draw in the end? This will determine the plot structure. In a story such as Cinderella, it is clear that by the end of the book, she has won. She is in the castle with the prince and her evil step-mother and sisters are paying the price for their bad deeds. In a story such as The Hunger Games, it is more of a draw by the last scene. Yes, Katniss survives, but to what cost? The Capital is still in control, and her life is still in danger. In Romeo & Juliet, it is clear that the characters lose by the last page. They both die and their families are shattered due to their lifelong feud.
- Who is the protagonist and what values do they hold that the antagonist opposes? The protagonist can be opposed by a best friend or an evil nemesis. The trait that creates a true antagonist is their level of opposition to the protagonist. In Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort is a true antagonist, opposing Harry down to the very core of his being. Their ideals, lifestyles, responses, and motivations are the exact opposite. In a story such as Hatchet, the antagonist is nature. Nature is not evil or behaving badly; it simply is. However, the problems it creates for the protagonist makes nature the antagonist in this story. Sometimes a character may act as an antagonist temporarily although that is not their main goal. Usually this is a friend or parent who opposes the main character’s goals, but supports the main character overall, such as Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- Is your character facing and internal or external conflict? An external conflict is a struggle with a force outside of the main character, such as society, nature, the Supernatural, technology (or machines), or another person. Internal conflicts are against one’s self, such as struggles against ideals, physical limitations, decisions that must be made, anger, ideas of right vs. wrong, or anything else where the battlefield is within the main character’s mind, soul, and heart.
Crafting the story
Going into your story, you must decide which of the struggles your character will face (internal or external) and if they will win, lose, or draw against that struggle. Then, you will better know which antagonist is best suited to face off with your main character.
Write a story where the main character changes due to the conflict. Decide before you start if the character will win, lose, or draw. Will their struggle be internal or external? And decide which type. Choose an antagonist who best opposes the protagonist’s goals. Choose names for the antagonist & protagonist that best describe their personality, such as Ebenenezer Scrooge or Bilbo Baggins.