Conflict is defined as a struggle between opposing forces. Conflict can be internal or external.
Internal conflict is a struggle that occurs in a character’s mind. This type of conflict is described as man against himself.
External conflict consists of a struggle between a character and an external force. This type of conflict can be of three types: man against man, man against nature, and man against society.
Today we are going to discuss external conflict and, in particular, man against man. In this type of conflict, we have one character being opposed by another character. For example, a student being bullied by another student is an example of an external, “man against man” conflict.
External conflicts occur in visible actions outside the character’s mind, even though those external conflicts will affect the character internally. In the example of the bully above, external conflict may be expressed in a scene in which the bully injures the student in some way. What we see is the physical fight. This is the external conflict.
The best stories contain both external and internal conflict. When we show the effects of the external struggle on the mind and emotions, we are adding internal conflict to our story. In the example of the bully above, when we show the effects of the physical fight on the mind and emotions of the bullied student, we then have internal conflict.
If you are writing a short story, you will usually have one major conflict. Novels, of course, usually have multiple conflicts.
Next time we’ll continue with “man against nature”.