In a story, starting a fight is an easy way to make the mood tense. But conflict can do more than just make a story feel tense, suspenseful. Conflict engages the audience. It makes us sympathize with the characters and root for them. And it heightens other emotions in the story. In summary, conflicts in stories serves as a hook to readers. With conflicts, one is engaged in the issues that happened between opposing parties. Knowing how to use them creates excitement in our writings.  

Elements of a Short Story: CONFLICT

Conflict in some quarters describes it as Man versus…Man, Nature, Society, or Self.

Some research work brought out the following interesting types of conflicts which would be helpful for us to ponder and use.

In an article “conflict 101” written by Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren, it mentioned seven main types of conflict.  Firstly, data conflicts, they touches on the disagreement on data presented. One party may disagree upon the presented facts.  In relationship conflicts, doubting the sincerity of the opposite party resulted in conflicts.  Conflicts over values is the dispute over our inability, our tolerance levels and our refusal to accept our differences in value system. Conflicts regarding resources, refers to resources availability and its cost. While one desires certain goals another may have desires for different resources limited by cost. In conflicts about past history, in which individuals may keep historical hurting by another throuh blame or guilt. Conflicts about structure, deals with external forces and contraints such as facing bullying; financial. Lastly, psychological conflicts deals with the desire for power, control, autonomy, recognition or love.

In another website, the author of “thewriter’s mentor” wrote about the following five conflict situations. I’ve quoted here.


“There are five types of conflict situations to be found in stories: inner, relational, social, situational, and cosmic.”

  • Inner conflict suggesting that the characters are unsure of themselves, or their action, or even what they want.
  • Relational conflict centers on the mutually exclusive goals of the protagonist (main character in the story) and the antagonist (character or force that opposes the protagonist).
  • Social conflict deals with conflict between a person and a group (pitting a person against a larger system).
  • Situational conflicts develop as characters disagree about how to best survive and within each scene, different points of view emerge. Some characters panic, others become leaders, trying to persuade the group to follow them.
  • Cosmic conflict occurs between a character and a supernatural force. In order to watch the conflict unfold, we need to see the character project his problems with an invisible force onto a human being who just happens to be in the way.”–Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great.


Writing A Great Script Fast: Step 14 Conflict

Both article on conflicts, one on everday conflicts, the other on conflicts in stories provided us with good reference to what conflicts are and how we can use them as applications in our writing piece.


Other references

  1. setting-the-mood-with-conflict
  2. Creating Conflict and Sustaining Suspense by Lee Masterson
  3. Strategic stories on conflict
  4. The importance of three act storytelling
  5. Movie script writing


Conflict – The Waterboy