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Four Ways to Create Conflict Between Characters

April 25, 2017

 

 

Your story is only as deep and beautiful as your characters, so if your characters are dull, lifeless mannequins, then your story will suffer. They are the heart of your story and must be realistic, human. 

 

A part of the human experience is having conflicts with other people. If everyone is getting along spectacularly, not only do things get boring, but your characters start to seem like paper cut outs. It would be great if life were really like this, with little to no conflict with others, but unfortunately it is not a reality.

 

In life we are in constant conflict with those around us. Examine the relationships in your life. When you butt heads with the people you come into contact with, ask yourself: why did this happen? Is it a personality conflict between you and the individual? A difference of opinion? An instant of betrayal?

 

If you are having trouble coming up with new conflict for your story, your characters are a good place to start. See if some of these conflict-causing reasons would work for them.  


 

1. Conflicting Personalities:

 

Think about Dr. Brennan and agent Booth from the television series, “Bones”. If you’ve never watched the show, Dr. Brennan is the serious, no-nonsense type while Booth is goofy, playful and spontaneous. This combination makes for great comedy as they are almost always in disagreement and bickering lightly. Throwing two people together who are polar opposites or who just don’t quite mesh, whatever the reason, is a great way to cause conflict.


 

2. Conflicting Interests:

 

I first thought about the scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when everyone meets in Rivendell to decide the fate of the ring. Conflict arose between the characters because many of them wanted different things for the ring, stemming from their different interests.

 

Think about some of the situations you want to throw your characters into. You can create your characters' interests to suit the situations they’ll be in. Create a chaotic combination of personal interests. This will ensure some conflict to liven your story up.


 

3. Internal struggles:

 

When a character is suffering from some sort of emotional trauma it’s going to affect how they react to certain things. How can we create conflict from the character's internal struggles? Well, you can have one of your characters overreact to something someone says because it strikes a sensitive chord with them. You can have them start acting so strangely that it worries their friends and family. If you want to see this kind of conflict in action, watch the Netflix original series, “Thirteen Reasons Why.”


 

4. Communication Issues:

 

Anyone who is married or has ever been married knows that this causes more conflict than almost anything. A misplaced smile, a misspoken word, a lack of words. Miscommunication can be disastrous, which is a good thing if you’re looking to add some more tension and conflict to your story. If you want to see communication issues and the conflict that can arise from them, look no further than the television series, “Friends”. Almost every episode is jam-packed with miscommunication.


 

It is necessary to have conflict between your characters, and I’m not just talking protagonist and antagonist. Conflict between minor characters, the protagonist's friends and acquaintances, makes for a more well-rounded protagonist. A less boring story. These minor issues that arise add depth to your story and create layers that are both interesting and intriguing. Take a look at the current story you’re writing. Add in conflict between your characters as often as you can; but of course you want some balance. Just be mindful when you story is starting to get dull and cause some chaos!  


 

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