Creative Writing Tutorials

Conflict is the barrier(s) blocking a character's goals, in turn, creating drama. It can be internal or external.

The most effective kind is between characters with opposing goals which can be countered or confronted. "Bad luck" is less effective.

Related Articles: Scene by Scene, Creating Interesting Characters


  • The character's enemy has stolen his/her love interest.
  • The character is bombarded with the protagonist's intentional attack.

Planting a Question[]

Conflict plants a question in the reader's mind. It can also create or heighten suspense.

  • Will she escape the avalanche?
  • Will he find more paper for his printer before the deadline?
  • Will she make a good impression on the in-laws?

The question should be answered with more conflict at the end of a scene, such as a setback or turning point of some kind.

Related Articles: Scene by Scene

Types of Conflict[]

There are many different types of conflict.

Character vs. Self[]

This is internal conflict, when the main character in the story has a problem with him/herself.

Character vs. Character[]

This is external conflict between two characters.

An example is the hero's conflicts with the villain, which may play a large role in the plot and contribute to change in the characters.

There are usually several arguments/disagreements before the climax is reached.


  • A child being bullied.

Character vs. Society[]

This is where the main source of conflict is social traditions or concepts. The two parties are the protagonist and the society of which the protagonist is included.

Society itself is looked on as single character, such as a villian in "Character vs. Character".

Character vs. Nature[]

This places a character against forces of nature.

Disaster films focus on this theme, which is also predominant within many survival stories.

It is also strong in stories about struggling for survival in remote locales, such as the novel Hatchet or Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire". Also A Separate Peace is a good example with Leper not wanting to jump out of the tree.

Character vs. Supernatural[]

Supernatural could be ghosts, monsters, demons, etc.


  • Ghostbusters

Character vs. Machine/Technology[]

This places a character against robot forces with "artificial intelligence".


  • I, Robot
  • The Terminator
  • Surrogates

Character vs. Destiny/Fake[]

This is where a character attempts to break free of a predetermined path.

It can also be referred to as an issue between fate


  • Macbeth.

Conflict in Dialogue[]