Using Conflict to Drive the Plot

Conflict should be the heartbeat of every story you write. It drives the whole plot, influences character development, and keeps your readers hooked to the very end. Let’s explore the vital role of conflict in storytelling and how you can skillfully weave it into your story’s narrative.

Why Conflict Is Important in Driving Plot


Without conflict, your story becomes static, a mere series of events with no real significance or emotional weight. Everything just sort of floats along aimlessly, and the reader will eventually lose interest.

Conflict presents challenges that make your characters struggle, change and grow. It builds tension, heightens stakes and ultimately fuels reader interest. Basically, the conflict turns a sequence of events into a compelling story.

Types of Conflict in Books, Movies and TV

Internal Conflict (Man vs. Self)

This is an internal struggle within a character, usually involving emotion, decision-making or morality. It’s a powerful tool for exploring character depth and relatability.

External Conflict

  • Man vs. man: This is the most common, where the main character struggles against another character. Think of Harry Potter’s constant battles with Voldemort.
  • Man vs. nature: Here, your protagonist fights against the forces of nature. I love the example “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel for this.
  • Man vs. society: The character stands against societal norms or laws. The “Hunger Games” series is a classic example that uses this type of conflict.

Examples of Effective Conflict in Well-Known Stories

  1. The famous feud between the Montague and Capulet families in “Romeo and Juliet” leads to tragic, forbidden love (man vs. man).
  2. Katniss Everdeen’s struggle against the authoritarian regime of the Panem capital in “The Hunger Games” (man vs. society).
  3. Pi Patel’s fight for survival against the open sea in the “Life of Pi” (man vs. nature).

Tips on How to Introduce and Develop Conflict in Your Story

  • Start early: Introduce the conflict as early as possible to hook your readers from the start.
  • Make it relatable: Make sure your conflict will resonate with your audience. Choose similar conflicts that we face in real life.
  • Heighten the stakes: As your story develops, make the consequences of not resolving the conflict more severe with each chapter.

Strategies for Resolving Conflict

  1. Natural resolution: The conflict resolves naturally over time as part of the story’s progression.
  2. Character growth: The character grows or changes in a way that enables them to resolve the conflict.
  3. External intervention: The conflict is resolved through the intervention of an outside force or event.

The Relationship Between Conflict and Character Development

Conflict is a tool for showing rather than telling character development. As your characters navigate and resolve conflict, they reveal their strengths, weaknesses, values and changes in their character arc.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Conflict in Your Story

  • Artificial conflict: Conflict should always stem from the characters or the situation, not feel forced or created for the sake of drama.
  • Unresolved conflict: While not all conflicts need to be resolved, major unresolved conflicts can leave readers feeling unsatisfied.
  • Too many conflicts: Too much conflict can confuse the reader and detract from the main plot.

Conflict is a compelling storytelling element that drives the plot, develops characters, and maintains readers’ interest. By understanding and implementing it effectively, you can create narratives that resonate with readers and stay with them long after the final page.