In his Worlds of Wonder, David Gerrold reminds us that a story is about a problem.
First, it’s about the details of resistance; then it’s about the details of acceptance, discovery and interaction; and finally, it’s about the details of resolution. So storytelling is about creating interesting problems – looking to see why they are problems, looking to see why the hero has made this a problem, looking to see what the hero has to give up, and finally what the hero has to become to resolve the problem.
J. Timothy King has written, “Conflict is the engine that drives a story forward. And not just any conflict, but relevant, meaningful conflict that matters to the protagonist and to the reader.” Further, “Conflict is a perception by the reader that compelling change has occurred and will occur.” (Bold face is King’s.) And Holly Lisle tells us, “Conflict is, simply put, change. Anytime something changes, it creates ripples that will be good for some people, bad for others.”
Here are three essays that highlight the various forms of conflict and how to make use of them in your stories.
* Laura Backes: For Successful Fiction, Add Conflict – Twice. Backes is primarily writing about books for youngsters, but the advice carries over into all other fiction.
* Susan Vaughan: Conflict. Don’t let the snappy title (which I also used) fool you: she offers valuable insight into external and internal conflicts.
* Chuck Wendig: 25 Ways to Fuck with Your Characters (or, ‘Building Conflict One Cruelty at a Time’). The title will give you the merest hint about the sort of language you’ll find here. I’m easy with that, but I do want to caution my more sensitive readers. Wendig has a great list of tried and true ways to put conflict into your story. It would be easy enough to write 25 stories working your way down the list and then starting over.