Conflict drives a story. I might go so far to say that conflict is your story. But I think too often, we miss that pivotal connection between conflict and character. If we don’t tie conflict directly to our characters we end up either with stories devoid of conflict and full of missed opportunities, or we force unnatural conflict on the story that doesn’t ring true. And it doesn’t help that a lot of advice on creating conflict is so high-minded (external vs. internal, blah, blah, blah) and often abstract — stakes! progression! empowerment! universality! — what does any of that mean and more importantly, how do you translate it into actual writing? Here are five ground-level ideas that will infuse your story with conflict and that you can put into practice right away.
1. Give your characters clear goals. Conflict stems from different people, different groups, different forces, different anything wanting different things—or sometimes, the same person torn between different things. But if you don’t know what your characters want, it’ll be difficult to wring any conflict out of them at all, let alone a serviceable story. Setting a story goal for your characters — the things they are striving for, seeking, wanting, going after, however you define it, really is the lifeblood of your story. Get these goals right, place them in opposition to each other, and the plot almost takes care of itself. Again, I’m not talking about high-minded theory here. This can really be as simple as asking, what does my character want? A new job, to save the world, the death of his enemies? The answer is up to you....