Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of conflict — the beating heart of any great story.
Whether you’re a seasoned author or just starting your writing journey, it’s always good to keep your toolbox stocked with fresh ideas for conflicts to keep your readers hooked.
After all, conflict is what drives your characters to grow, learn, and ultimately triumph (even sometimes fail) in their struggles. It’s what keeps the pages turning and your readers emotionally invested in your story.
But where do you find inspiration for these captivating conflicts? Well, that’s where this article comes in!
We’ve put together a treasure trove of examples of conflict that you can use to fuel your next story.
From internal struggles to interpersonal clashes, from societal strife to battles against the forces of nature, we’ve got something for every writer’s taste.
In this post, we’ll delve into each type of conflict, providing examples and tips on how to use them effectively in your fiction. We’ll also touch on the importance of conflict resolution, ensuring that your story ends on a satisfying note.
Remember, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity, so feel free to mix and match these ideas, or even come up with your own unique conflicts.
The first type of conflict in the world of fiction is internal conflict, the battle raging within your characters themselves. It’s an essential element to create complex, relatable characters.
Internal conflict can be driven by many factors, including:
1. Fear of Failure
We’ve all been there, right? Your character wants to achieve something, but their fear of failing holds them back.
Whether it’s trying out for a sports team, starting a new business, or confessing their love, fear of failure can lead to compelling character development.
How to use fear of failure in your story? Make your character face their fear and show the consequences of their actions. Will they overcome their fear or succumb to it? The choice is yours.
2. Struggle with Morality
Your character finds themselves in a moral dilemma, torn between what’s right and what’s easy but wrong. Maybe they’ve uncovered a dark secret, or they’re tempted to betray a friend for personal gain.
How to use the struggle with morality in your story? Present your character with choices that test their moral compass, and let the reader see the struggle that ensues. It can add a lot of depth and complexity to your character and story.
3. Personal Identity Crisis
Who am I? A question that plagues many characters, especially during coming-of-age stories. Your character may struggle to define themselves or find their place in the world.
How to use a personal identity crisis in your story? Explore your character’s internal journey as they grapple with identity. This conflict can drive your character’s growth and relationships with others.
Next up is interpersonal conflict — the clash between characters. It’s the driving force behind many relationships and can lead to tension, drama, and resolution. Here are some examples of this type of internal conflict that can be used in the world of fiction:
1. Family Dynamics
Ah, family — the source of love, support, and… conflict! Your characters might have sibling rivalries, strained relationships with parents, or struggle with generational differences.
How to use family dynamics in your fiction? Explore the complexities of family relationships as your characters navigate the balance between love and conflict.
This can create emotional depth and even provide some comic relief.
2. Rivalry Between Friends or Colleagues
A little competition can be healthy, but sometimes it goes too far. Rivalry between friends or colleagues can lead to betrayals, jealousy, and even sabotage.
How to use this type of conflict as part of your story? Pit your characters against each other in a competition or a race to achieve a common goal.
Show the lengths they’ll go to come out on top and how their relationships evolve.
3. Love Triangle
The good-old love triangle — a classic source of interpersonal conflict. Your character might be torn between two love interests or find themselves competing for someone’s affection.
How to use it in your next novel? Use the love triangle to create tension, drama, and heartache. Will your character choose one over the other, or will they find a way to make it work? The possibilities are endless.
Now let’s look at societal conflict, where your characters are up against societal norms or structures.
It’s a great way to create an immersive world and tackle real-world issues in a fictional setting that may be too hard to deal with in a nonfiction setting. Here are some examples:
1. Class Struggle
The age-old conflict between the haves and the have-nots can create an engaging backdrop for your story. Your characters might fight for social mobility or struggle against an oppressive ruling class.
How to use class struggle in fiction? Explore how your characters navigate the social hierarchy, face prejudice, or challenge the status quo.
You can create a rich world with complex societal structures that reflect or contrast with real-life issues, especially if you choose to tackle class struggle using science fiction (e.g. The Hunger Games.)
2. Rebellion Against Authority
Who doesn’t love a good rebellion story? Your characters might be part of a resistance movement, fighting against an oppressive government, or trying to bring down a corrupt organization.
How to use this type of conflict in fiction: Show your characters planning and executing their rebellion.
Highlight the sacrifices they make, the risks they take, and the consequences they face. It’s a thrilling conflict that can keep your readers engaged.
3. Cultural or Religious Clashes
Differences in culture or religion can lead to fascinating conflicts. Your characters might have to navigate a world where their beliefs are at odds with those around them or have to bridge the gap between two warring factions.
How to use this type of conflict in your story: Use cultural or religious clashes to create tension, misunderstandings, or opportunities for growth.
Show how your characters learn to respect and appreciate different perspectives, or how they struggle to overcome prejudice. Once again, this is better handled through fantasy of science fiction, where you can create entirely new cultures or religions to support your story.
Man vs. Nature Conflict
Last but not least, we have the man vs. nature conflict — a timeless struggle between your characters and the forces of nature. Let’s look at some examples below:
1. Survival in Harsh Environments
Your characters might find themselves stranded in a desert, lost in a dense forest, or trapped on a deserted island. They’ll have to rely on their wits and resourcefulness to survive.
How to use this type of conflict in fiction: Explore the physical and psychological challenges your characters face in their fight for survival.
Show how they adapt to their surroundings, overcome obstacles, and form new relationships.
2. Natural Disasters
Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods can create high-stakes situations for your characters. They’ll have to navigate the chaos, protect their loved ones, and rebuild their lives.
How to use natural disasters in your next story: Show the impact of the natural disaster on your characters’ lives and how they cope with the aftermath.
You can create an emotional and gripping story that highlights the resilience of the human spirit.
3. Human Impact on the Environment
As the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation become more evident, your characters might have to deal with the fallout or fight for change.
How to use this type of conflict in fiction: Explore how the changing environment affects your characters’ lives and how they react to it.
By using a fictional setting, you have more freedom to tackle pressing real-world issues than in nonfiction, making your story relevant and thought-provoking.
Conflict Resolution and Its Importance in Fiction
A satisfying conflict resolution is crucial to your story’s success. It allows your characters to grow, learn, and ultimately triumph (or fail) in their struggles.
It’s the emotional payoff your readers have been waiting for, and it can make or break your story.
So, let’s now dive into why conflict resolution is so important and explore some techniques to effectively resolve conflicts in your fiction.
The Significance of Conflict Resolution
A well-executed conflict resolution demonstrates how your characters have evolved throughout the story. It showcases their ability to overcome obstacles, learn from their experiences, and make tough decisions.
After all, readers invest their time and emotions in your story, and a satisfying resolution rewards them for their investment. It provides a sense of closure and makes the reading experience worthwhile.
Resolving conflicts in a way that reinforces your story’s themes can leave a lasting impression on your readers. It drives home the message you want to convey and adds depth to your story.
Strategies for Effectively Resolving Conflicts in Fiction
Here are some tried and true strategies you can use for your next novel:
Ensure that the resolution flows organically from the events leading up to it. Avoid introducing sudden or unexpected solutions that feel forced or contrived. Your readers should feel that the resolution is a logical outcome of the story’s progression.
Consequences and Accountability
Let your characters face the consequences of their choices, whether good or bad. This adds realism to your story and helps your readers connect with your characters on a deeper level.
Show how your characters learn from their mistakes, take responsibility for their actions, and forge new paths forward.
Conflict resolution isn’t just about tying up loose ends — it’s also about addressing the emotional turmoil your characters have experienced.
Ensure that your characters achieve emotional closure, which may involve forgiveness, acceptance, or reconciliation.
Surprise and Originality
Keep your readers on their toes by introducing creative and unexpected ways to resolve conflicts.
While it’s essential to maintain a natural progression, you can still surprise your readers by taking the resolution in an unanticipated direction.
In some cases, not all conflicts need to be resolved entirely. Leaving some conflicts unresolved or partially resolved can add a sense of realism and complexity to your story.
However, be careful not to leave too many loose ends, as this may frustrate your readers.
Reflection of Character Growth
Show how your characters have changed as a result of the conflict resolution. Have they become wiser, more compassionate, or more determined?
Use the resolution as an opportunity to highlight your characters’ growth and development.
By incorporating these strategies and understanding the importance of conflict resolution, you can create a satisfying and memorable conclusion to your story.
Remember that the resolution is the culmination of your characters’ struggles, and it should leave your readers with a sense of closure and emotional satisfaction.
So, find creative and unique ways to resolve the conflicts you’ve set up, and let your characters grow, learn, and forge new paths forward.
Wrapping Things Up
And there you have it — an extensive collection of conflict examples to help you breathe life into your next fiction story.
As you embark on your writing journey, keep in mind that the most memorable stories are those that challenge their characters with diverse and intricate conflicts, pushing them to grow and evolve in unexpected ways.
Also, experimenting with different types of conflict can lead to richer, more immersive stories. Don’t be afraid to combine ideas, take inspiration from real-life events, or even create entirely new conflicts that haven’t been explored before.
The key is to stay curious, stay creative, and most importantly, enjoy the process!
Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas. Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.
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