As important as character development and plotting may be, without a conflict to drive the story forward – well, there really is no story. So here are some ideas to help you find a page-turning conflict.
Consider what kind of conflict your story will include. Although some may overlap at times, there are seven basic kinds of conflict. You’ll need to know what your driving conflict is as much as you know your characters and the plot. No doubt, your story’s conflict will fit into one of these categories. When planning the conflict for your story consider one of these areas.
- Man vs. Self – This may arguably be the most intense form of conflict, but yet most can identify with it. Everything rides on the outcome.
- Man vs. Man – No doubt, this is the most common form of conflict, and the odds are increased as there are more than one person placed at risk – even if that person is the villain of your story.
- Man vs. Society – A much bigger scope with much to lose if your character is unsuccessful.
- Man vs. Nature – Raw nature is very powerful and must be overcome by an equal if not superior power to survive.
- Man vs. Machine – Of course somewhere along the line, a man invented the machine that is causing conflict. It pits intelligence against intelligence. In today’s world, technolgy is hard to beat.
- Man vs. Fate/Supernatural – This leaves the door opened for so many possibilies. What will be will be – or will it?
- Man vs. the unknown – Think outer space aliens. Think unexplored wilderness, which may also include nature. Think about the future.
If readers care about the result of your story conflict, they will keep reading to find out what happens. So the obvious question is, What makes readers care? I believe this is the reason your readers will care. The readers identify with your character — in other words, readers imagine themselves in your character’s place. Readers tend to identify with the viewpoint character and feel as if they’re resolving the story’s conflict along with him or her. They’ve not resolved the conflict until your character does.
Here are some ways to turn a character idea into an idea for conflict. And the good thing is you can use these ideas over and over in different combinations to create new characters and conflicts.
- Is there something your character desires or wants to accomplish? Imagine that your character is in a position to obtain his desire, but what are the roadblocks that easily prevent him/her from doing so.
- Give your character an important goal to reach, and give her/him a deep-seated fear that s/he will have to face to make the goal.
- Give your character someone to hate. Then involve the two in a struggle (possibly a struggle that will change both of them).
- Imagine the opposite. Who is someone your character loves? Imagine a situation which threatens to cut your character off from this person. What is the response of your character?
- Give your character a major weakness. Then involve him a pursuit that if he is to acheive it, s/he must overcome the weakness.
- Put your character in a situation that s/he doesn’t know about himself or herself and s/he is about to ruin his or her life, unless the character is capable of making drastic changes.
- Give your character two or more people to deeply care about. What happens when you introcuce a situation in which your character must choose between one or another.
Give some things a try. Let me know how you make out!