Friday, January 17, 2014

What About Conflict?

What About Conflict?

Before sitting down to write, an author has to have an idea. It might be just a germ of a speck of an grain of an idea, but there must be inspiration. Whether you choose to outline, storyboard, plot, plan or play it by ear—inspiration must strike.
You've got your idea, you've made your plan of attack or you have your starting sentence. Now what?

Something Goes Horribly Wrong

Conflict is what makes a story move forward. Even in the happily ever after tales of our childhood, there is Conflict. Snow White ends up with the seven dwarfs for a reason. Sleeping Beauty doesn't put herself to sleep and Cinderella isn't running from that party just because she didn't like the food.
When I taught school, we discussed Conflict in great detail. I'm going to share some of that with you. English teachers will debate the number of types of Conflict, but I go with six. Some limit it to three, with sub-categories. Well, if you're going to have sub-categories, why not just give them their own?

My use of Man means Humans, so please, ladies, don't squabble with me. I'm old fashioned. This is how I learned it and how I remember.

Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Himself
Man vs. Machine
Man vs. Society
Man vs. Destiny/ Fate


Man vs. Man – Any conflict involving one person against another. This is, understandably, one of the most common forms of conflict. Everybody loves a good villain. Any of the Die Hard movies are good examples of this conflict. There are so many others, I can't name them all. (This can include one race/ group against another)

Man vs. Nature – Any time the main character is pitted against Mother Nature. Lots of disaster movies fall into this category. A Perfect Storm is a great example.

Man vs. Himself – No, the hero doesn't have to be crazy to be in conflict with himself. He wants or desires something he can't have or denies himself he really wants. Of course, crazy often does factor in – Shutter Island and Fight Club are good examples.

Man vs. Machine – This one isn't always listed, or it's a sub-category under Man vs. Man. I like to separate it from that conflict. Given some of the movies in the last 20 years, this isn't a sub-category anymore. Think Matrix, Terminator, Eagle Eye.

Man vs. Society – Pretty obvious. A person who doesn't fit into society's “normal” pattern. For some reason, the hero is a misfit. Sometimes, he's hiding it, other times not. “1984” by George Orwell is a prime example. So is the movie“Equilibrium” and novel/ movie “Fahrenheit 451”.

Man vs. Destiny/ Fate – Many an epic fantasy is built upon this conflict. It is Bilbo's destiny to bring the Ring to the Shire. It is Frodo's destiny to return it. And therein hangs the tale.

You may not consciously pick your conflict. Quite often, it chooses you. As the story develops, the conflict arises and must be resolved. The characters make the journey to a resolution. How they get there, is the plot. (Which I will discuss in another article.)

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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