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✍🏻 My best tips for writing conflict 🤬
Because honey, there's no fun without drama.
I’ve been writing fiction since I was 7 or 8 years old, but I only really understood the importance of conflict while writing my first romcom novel in 2019. Mastering conflict is essential if you write fiction. Without relevant and gripping obstacles in your main character's path, your story could risk becoming slow, uneventful, or even boring.
Everyone loves drama. So let’s do a deep dive into Mastering Conflict 101, shall we?
First things first: what is conflict?
To answer this, we need to look at one of my favorite concepts in fiction writing: GMC, aka Goal-Motivation-Conflict. Here, the Goal is what your main character (MC) wants. The Motivation is the reason they want it. And the Conflict is what’s preventing them from achieving it. The stronger the conflict, the more your character has to fight to achieve their Goal—which makes for a really gripping and exciting read.
The 7 types of conflict in fiction
Although conflict is usually split into internal conflict (conflict within your MC’s inner mental or emotional world) and external conflict (conflict between the MC and an external force), we can take this one step ahead and talk about how conflict can generally play out in fiction. (This is not an exhaustive list)
Person vs. Self
Person vs. Person
Person vs. Society
Person vs. Supernatural
Person vs. Fate/God
Person vs. Technology
Person vs. Nature
Tips for writing stronger conflict
Now I’m going to show you some examples of conflict from my own debut romcom novel, MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, which comes out in 2024 from Penguin Random House. (Add it on Goodreads here!)
Conflict is the obstacle before your MC’s goal
The conflict your main character faces over the course of the story MUST relate to their Goal.
In MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, my heroine Jia’s Goal is to find a match for her new colleague so she has more credibility as an unofficial matchmaker, but her plans are foiled when the colleague falls for a guy Jia does NOT approve of.
Include both internal and external conflict
Internal conflict refers to the emotional or mental struggle happening in your MC’s mind. In my book, Jia struggles to figure out her conflicting feelings of annoyance and attraction toward the hero.
External conflict is always between your MC and something outside of them, like a character, a situation, a thing, etc. like in the matchmaking example from before.
The antagonist has opposing views
When two characters have opposing belief systems or morals, it creates stronger conflict between them.
In MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, my hero Jaiman wants to run a successful pub to reclaim the sense of community he never had growing up, but his traditional father wants him to join the respectable family business and not “pour drinks and serve food to people like a house servant.” Clearly, Jaiman and his dad have opposing views on career fulfillment.
Use subplots to heighten conflict
You might use subplots or secondary characters to heighten your MC’s internal or external conflict. This is also a great opportunity for character growth, not just for your main characters but also your secondary characters.
In my book, Jaiman’s conflict of trying to run a successful pub against his father’s wishes is heightened when his college rival opens a pub next door.
Raise the stakes throughout the story
The level of conflict doesn’t have to be the same until the end. Try to make things more and more f*cked up for your MC as the story progresses, making sure the conflict relates to their overarching Goal and character arc.
In MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, Jia’s conflicting feelings for Jaiman grow even more complex when potential new love interests appear for them both.
I hope these 5 tips on mastering conflict helped you! If you were intrigued by these examples from MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, be sure to add it to your To-Read shelf on Goodreads by clicking here.
See you soon :)
Love hard & dream big,