Episode 197: Gotta have some conflict

On August 20, 2022, Kasie and Rex took on conflict in the story. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day



  • What is conflict and why do you need it?
  • SCWA’s Annual Conference and Virtual Conference are open for registration
  • How to put conflict in your scenes
Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

Segment 1

We did an episode on raising the stakes and one on “White Knuckle Scenes” back in October of last year. And when I texted you and asked, “What should we talk about tomorrow?” you (Rex) said, “tention.” Leaving off that “tention” is a misspelled version of “tension” I assumed you meant how to create drama, conflict, or action in the scene.

So we’re going to work on that today: how to make the scene interesting by building the conflict. Because, while we did the tension thing a year ago, we haven’t done “conflict” since episode 10.

Conflict, according to this resource from Oregon State, basically means “thwarted, endangered, or opposing desire. It’s when a character wants something, but something else gets in the way.”

In the broadest terms, there are 7 types of conflict (link):

  1. Character vs. characters
  2. Character vs. society
  3. Character vs. nature
  4. Character vs. technology
  5. Character vs. supernatural
  6. Character vs. fate
  7. Character vs. self

At the scene level, these conflicts play out in dialogue and action, and drive the plot forward.

Segment 2

Stories may have one overall conflict – the primary one – driving the plot, but each scene needs conflict, too, and this is where we get into the “desires thwarted, endangered, or opposed” scenario.

Without tension, or conflict, in your scene, the scene is boring.

Can you have too much conflict?

Can you have too much plot and not enough character? (link)

Segment 3

What about internal conflict vs external conflict? Is there a difference?

Can the book be too internal? Too much man vs. himself?

Can the book not be internal enough? Man never changes because he’s too busy fighting external suchness?

Turns out, there are 7 types of internal conflict, too. (link)

  1. Religious
  2. Moral
  3. Self perception
  4. Love
  5. Political
  6. Societal
  7. Existential

Segment 4

So how do you do it? How do you add conflict to a scene?

This blog from masterclass suggests:

  • Determine what kind of conflict the story needs
  • Decide what your character wants and put something in the way
  • Create characters with opposing values
  • Create a powerful antagonist
  • Sustain the conflict’s momentum through the middle of the story
  • Strengthen conflict with subplots
  • Raise the stakes
  • Think through your story visually
  • Read other fiction

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