Hello! Welcome to the second part in our two-part series about conflict. Today we’re going to be going into depth about how we can use conflict in our own stories.
(If you missed it, last week I talked about what conflict is, and how to find it.)
Conflict plays such a big role in our books. Without it, if we were reading about a non-conflicted battle, we’d be falling asleep in our chairs, no matter how interesting it should be.
How to Use Conflict
Sometimes books can be conflict-packed, and yet…it bores readers to death.
Here’s an interesting example of how to not use conflict:
The characters go on an adventure to find the last dragon on earth. They have to go into a new realm, where they face spite and anger because of their human race. Then they run into a pair of giants. And to top it off, they practically died trying to escape them!
All this going ‘here and there’ and ‘defeating this and that’? This was an example of random obstacles. Random obstacles are probably going to be things like “Oh no! There’s a hole in the ground in front of us! How will we get by?”.
Sooo aka useless.
There’s no actual purpose for random obstacle’s existence. I can assure you, you could just delete out those random things, and your entire story wouldn’t change. Except for the better.
To describe it best, conflict kinda sounds like overcoming the thing keeping the protagonist from achieving the goal, right?
Well, that’s only half of it.
Here are the top two most vital tips to help you when you’re writing conflict in your book:
- Do any of these obstacles intentionally try to stop your protagonist from reaching his goal?
- Does your protagonist make choices that will change his view or force him to struggle in finding the right path in life?
1. Do Any of These Challenges Intentionally Try to Stop Your Protagonist from Reaching his Goal?
Hate to break it to the poor dragon-seekers, but nothing about any of that shows anyone actually trying to prevent the group from getting to the dragon. They just…went there. And were interrupted by giants and such. But they were still able to finish in one piece, even if they almost died…
What we need is for someone to break off their good luck streak entirely. I’ll go more into detail about how you can achieve this in a later post.
You have to realize is that good conflict? It comes from an obstacle that’s been created, personally, for your protagonist to beat. Something that’ll matter to your protagonist.
Remember how above I said that conflict sounds like overcoming the thing keeping the protagonist from achieving the goal? This is the second half plus a little extra to the first.
You see, the obstacle that’s there has to be personal for your protagonist. (the hero of your story) Something that’ll matter to him on a personal level.
2. Does Your Protagonist Make Choices That Will Change his View or Force Him to Struggle in Finding the Right Path in Life?
I thought about it for a split second before I made up my mind. Although fighting some giants might become emotional, (WE’RE ALL GUNNA DIE!!!!) did any of those ‘obstacles’ in my example actually challenge the protagonist mentally or emotionally? …not really, no.
It’s interesting to think how much more effective my example would’ve been if overcoming these problems called for emotional struggles, maybe even making it effect the protagonist’s growth in life.
You see, the problem with that entire scenario was that those obstacles? They were just things in the way. Something that we didn’t doubt that the character could overcome. Something they could carelessly push away, and breezily stride onwards. Although they were, of course, obstacles in the way of the main plot goal, it wasn’t real conflict. Again, it was all just random obstacles.
Here’s a huge tip when writing conflict: If nothing has changed for the protagonist mentally or emotionally, then they probably didn’t face any conflict.
Conflict is all about the struggle. Your protagonist is faced with a challenge and has to decide how he’s going to overcome it. And there has to be the consequence of making the right and wrong choice about it. (Death isn’t a consequence. Or at least, not for the protagonist. If one of your minor characters has to die because of it, then yes, that’s a very big consequence.)
If nothing about it is mentally or emotionally challenging, then it’s an obstacle, not conflict.
Conflict is a personal obstacle in the way of your protagonist. He’ll try to fight through it, but he’ll fail. And yet? Although he failed in overcoming this challenge, he learned from it. He learned something either mentally or emotionally changing. Maybe even both.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.
Thanks for reading!