Three Types of conflict, plus(?)
We can all remember learning about conflict in literature when we were in high school. The classic three types of conflict are:
- Man vs. Man.
- Man vs. Nature.
- Man vs. Self.
You can also add Man vs. Society, but I would argue that that isn’t really any different than Man vs. Nature. It’s really just Man vs. and external force. The Wikipedia page on conflict also suggests a few more classifications such as Man against God, Man against Machine, Man against Fate, and Man against the Supernatural.
But do these classifications matter?
I would argue that the labels really don’t. At least not on the larger scale. What’s important is that your story revolves around any conflict, not a certain type of it.
Allow me to share my view of conflict. It basically goes like this:
- You’ve got a characters.
- That character wants something.
- Something gets in the way of that character getting what he wants.
- He faces the something and either overcomes it and gets what he wants, or he doesn’t.
And that’s it.
I seriously think it could hurt your story if you focus too much on labeling and using one type of conflict in your story. I’m a firm believer that conflict needs to be present in every scene of your novel. It can be a large, overlying conflict affecting the smaller scenes (something like a war) or a smaller-scale conflict, local only to the present scene (something like a brief lover’s quarrel.)
But however you look at it, conflict should be interwoven with every aspect of your story.
Start with a goal
I’d also like to add that while it is important to have one, large, overlying conflict on top of all of the smaller scene-based and character-based conflicts in your story, it’s equally important to remember that the conflict itself is not the story.
The basics of your story are still your character and your character’s goal. The conflict is really just a plot point. Remember this:
- Setting: Your character is in a tree.
- Goal: He wants to get down.
- Conflict: Throw rocks at him.
The story is your character’s quest to get down from the tree. The rocks are simply the obstacle for him to overcome. The bigger the rocks, the bigger the obstacle. The plot is resolved when the character either gets down or dies trying.
So thanks for reading, and if there’s anything you’d like to add about conflict, feel free to leave a comment and let us know.