Basic Types of Conflict

Types of Conflict.jpg

I‘ve been voraciously reading through a few books on enhancing both conflict and suspense in our fictional worlds.  I was preparing to delve into the topic when I realized I haven’t offered a single post on the core types of conflict.  Let’s take a day to carve out a foundation before we start building castles (or blowing them up).

gladiator netMost of us can agree that conflict is what keeps our readers coming back for more.  Some people will say character is primary.  Maybe for a few of us a character split the universe and resonated with us immediately.  This is rather rare though.  I would say the reason most characters have become endeared to us is through the clever application of conflict.

A majority of the characters who we know and love were put through the literary meat grinder.  We’re talking about broken hearts and bodies.  Our bond is forged through the furnace of conflict and we grow to love (or love to hate) the character.  Once that bond is built, we can happily spend hours reading about them crocheting and making peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

dragon attackLet’s consider some of the more classic ways conflict is applied in fiction.  Today I’m going to take a “cheat” day and let the imagery I generated do the talking for me.  The only debatable form of conflict you will see below is the argument over whether God (or god) should be in it’s own category or if it’s really more of a supernatural conflict.  I’m not here to debate religion; I’m just offering the most widely accepted forms of conflict.

It should be noted all of this imagery was made or re-purposed by me and contains no copyrighted materials.  I also marked the images “Public Domain” after I created them.  There isn’t a ton of copyright free images on the internet for folks to use on their blogs and webpages with zero risk.  Everything I create is absolutely free to share and use (unless I put a disclaimer on it saying otherwise).  Also everything I make is linked on my sidebar to my Flickr account where I store them for the blog; feel free to pilfer.


These are the meat and potatoes of conflict.  The best stories combine many of these into what Chuck Wendig would call, “…a spicy hell-broth that nourishes” (The Kick-Ass Writer).  That’s the kind of frothy stew I like dipping my grilled cheese into!

Are there classic forms of conflict missing from my list?  I don’t claim this is the “All Powerful List of Conflict Destiny,” so if you feel I missed one let me know.  If it’s a solid recommendation I may even throw together a graphic and add it too the image list.  What forms of conflict do you use in your stories?  What kinds do you like to read about?  I’d be curious to know about your spicy-hell broth of choice.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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33 responses

  1. Pingback: Basic Types of Conflict — Quintessential Editor – I Suck at Writing

  2. How about man versus own version of himself from an astral plane?

    I think that may fall under “man versus man” or “man versus the supernatural”, however, in the case of the same person of being in two places can be a little bit more. It’s more than the man arguing with himself or trying to win an inner conflict. It’s being comfortable with knowing there’s someone who is 99% him on an another astral plane.

    Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right with what you said at first: man vs man. The one percent different and separation of time and space make them separate and distinct, even if they are version of one another (I would think). Kind of like identical twins don’t share consciousnesses (or do they…). That’s some next level confusing subject matter. Hah!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Identical twins do not share consciousness (good thing, ’cause the clone is asleep right now, and it would be rather difficult for me to type lengthy comments on other people’s blogs if I couldn’t think unless he was thinking, too), but some of us ARE, for lack of a better/more common term, mindlinked to some extent. (Conflict type: man versus identical twin — it’s sort of like man versus man, and sort of like man versus himself, and sort of like man versus the supernatural, but mostly it’s about how many songs by Nine Inch Nails will be included in the “working soundtrack” for a novel.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • This sounds like the kind of think a telepathic identical twin/clone would say to prevent government entities from locating them for experimentation. Just saying.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can think of several conflicts, right off the top of my head. Like right now we are bombarded with Political Conflicts due to the Presidential race. And depending on your geometrical position, its could also be Global conflicts which pertains to its relationship with economic inequality, climate change and energy. But I totally agree on your perception of characters in a story line. I really have to like/dislike a character in a story in order to continue to read the content of the story. Like for instance, I read all of Jude Deveraux books because she has a family that is related in every single book. I feel like I know this entire family and their struggles. So because of that I keep buying her books to find out about another family member. I also like it that her books are set in 18th Century Venue. Classy!!. Loved the inspiration today, Corey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hah! I know you love Deveraux because Heather does too. Great examples of real world conflict and relationships to characters too!

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and for reading today Kim! Glad you enjoyed the post 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was talking about Deveraux the queen of conflict the other day comparing her story telling to the drawn out content free mush I keep finding in others of late. Her books all have one thing in common, a story that is fun and interesting.

        Liked by 2 people

      • It’s certainly not a genre I read, but when your wife and mother-in-law both love it how can you not appreciate what it has to offer. I know from reputation and word of mouth that Deveraux is a powerhouse thought. What you are saying seems to align with what Heather (my wife) tells me too. If there is one amazing thing about fiction it’s the tools we learn and use can be applied across the genres. Much like a painters brush can accomplish different things on canvas. Thanks for sharing!


    • Deathlands was my bread and butter when I was a kid. My uncle had visited and left a book behind, it was one from this series. I didn’t think much of it but brought it with me to my room when I was getting ready to go to sleep. It was the literary equivalent of finding a playboy under your dads bed when I opened it up. Here be graphic violence, sex, mutants, cannibals, guns, and explosions! It was glorious, it was cheesy, it was everything a growing boy needed.

      A phone call from my uncle alerted my parents to the fact he might have left a questionable book behind. My fun was spoiled – for the moment.

      Now my dad worked two buildings over from the town library. After school I would walk there, do homework, and read until he got off work. Then we would go home together.

      A library card is a powerful thing and so is a boy’s curiosity.

      Needless to say I had a steady supply of Deathlands books being shipped to the library in no time. I doubt a kid could pull that off now with ratings being placed on books and age verification. Regardless, the library would purge books every now and then (books no one else was reading) and sell them for 5 cents. My personal collection began to grow.

      Drake’s eye-patch from my book, though it is an important story element, is my nod to Ryan Cawdor of the Deathlands series. Ryan lost his left eye to his brother, Drake lost his to his best friend.

      I haven’t read a Deathlands book in years and years (maybe 2003ish), but when it comes to 80s post apocalyptic pulp – that’s where my brain goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Uh-oh, I think I just figured out my next entry! Thank you Corey! Seriously, I simply read one of the conflicts and snap, something awoke in me. I’m not sure what sorcery you use when creating your imagery or writing your articles but I must say, sometimes I read certain things and BOOM! Out of nowhere, something is triggered in me.

    I feel it ready to unleash…alas it will have to wait a tiny bit yet, I have a lot of reading and catching up to do. I was out yesterday as you know and I missed Wasteland Wednesday so that is something I must read first!

    Also the billions of other poems and stories in my reader. I always feel the need to read everyone’s stuff as much as I want to write my own. Xp

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad my mad ranting have served their purpose and planted a seed of inspiration in your head!

      I’ve created multiple bookmarked folders to manage my reader better. If someone comments on my posts frequently, or writes content that is glorious, I toss them into a bookmarked folder and attempt to go to their space everyday. I also have a folder for stay-at-home dads who are figuring it out (like me). I wish we could categorize of prioritize bloggers within the reader instead of just separating by tags (can we do that?).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wish we could do a lot of things on WordPress. I’m not sure if you can prioritize people in your reader or not. I think I’ve heard of something similar, but I’m not 100%. I kind of am unable to do certain things as I work strictly from an IPad at the moment (and an older version at that) so I find I am quite often using the app instead of the site.

        The only time I use the site is when typing up and posting another Entry and many times I’ll have to log back in because it freezes or crashes on me in mid writing. Too much for the old hardware I guess. The app itself works fine though. Just a little slow to update my reader is all.

        Cheers! ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s s pain figuring some of it out. And since the page is live it’s scary to tinker with it sometimes. I also get crashes on my phone, but very rarely on my desktop. If I find a way to do what we are talking about I’ll share it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I genuinely believe I’m one of those rare people who value character more than even conflict. That said. The most compelling, proactive character sitting around all day, is still a guy sitting around all day, so I guess the more accurate thing is I like the critical blend between character and conflict. There’s a sweet spot there that I feel is critical. It makes sense to me that way as well. For instance, I’ve read books where the conflict was awesome, but I still hated it because the characters were boring. (My personal definition of boring, reactive and un-compelling). I’ve read books where I loved the character, but didn’t enjoy the book because the conflict wasn’t satisfying.

    As I’m a fan of case studies, allow me to use Anime.

    I love Naruto.

    I’m not a fan of Dragonball Z. It’s not a HORRIBLE show. I like Goku, but I have no fear for him. He’ll reach Super Sayan 182637692 and destroy the opposition.

    You could argue Naruto does the same. You could argue EVERY anime does the same, but for me, there’s a degree of believable conflict.

    This is my problem with Superman as well. What, exactly, should I be afraid of for him. He’s the kind of alien man shaped person any parent would be proud to have, but he’s too powerful. He’s too perfect.

    That inspired a blog of my own, so I’m going to type that out after I edit a chapter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It would seem this conflict post has inspired a number of posts tonight. I love it when something simple still manages to get people thinking about creating.

      There is a huge emotional difference between DBZ and Naruto I would say. I think DBZ appealed to me when I was younger because I was still growing (before high school, during high school). When we are young and we begin to grow things that are powerful inspire us. Seeing men who through sure force of will can ascend to the next level of might was something that appealed to me (I weighed like 100 pounds my freshman year of high school). When I was younger I was more willing to believe in the perceived danger of Goku getting hurt.

      Now that I’m older Naruto is a perfect story. It’s more about personal growth, doing what you say you’re going to do, and having a ninja way (code to live by). Someone who is willing to work themselves to death and exhaustion to achieve their goals, and still fail every now and then, is very human and relatable. The character work in this show is great too. You have 100’s of episodes to get to know the characters and each one develops relationships of varying emotional impact. And those characters become vital because bro…they will straight up murder your favorite characters! *pours energy drink on the ground* That was for my fallen Naruto homies.

      I’m glad you turned me onto the show. I had thought about watching it before, but you nudged me in the right direction. Good work old chap!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m another one who chooses character over conflict.

    Yes, you need both for a story. Yes, there are conflict tropes that I love–I remember I started watching White Collar because it promised an FBI agent and a con artist struggling to work together, each with their own agenda. Awesome! Love that trope. But I stuck around because I fell in love with the characters.

    The plots stopped working for me eventually. And the conflict between the two leads–at times, I stopped believing in it. (Once your bromance has passed a certain number of tests, it should be solid.) But I stuck with the show till the bitter end. Because these characters mattered to me.

    All that said, thanks for laying out the basic conflicts for us! And I’m loving the images. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • *Corey finishes reading and scratches his head*

      I can’t believe you didn’t mention Sam, Dean, or Castiel. Am I still dreaming? I did just wake up…

      I’m just being ridiculous though. I never gave White Collar enough of a chance. I think I was geographically or technologically challenged when it was coming out though (in the military moving all the time and not having access to the interwebs). Perhaps I will give it a go!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Conflict: Understanding Suspense « Quintessential Editor

  8. I haven’t ever written a story using “man versus god” as a type of conflict, but that’s because I choose not to write stories with literal deities. Extremely powerful entities, ascended beings, etc., sure, but they’re not gods… even if they answer “Yes” when asked if they are. (There’s an interesting conversation in one of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels about the difference between a deity and a super-powerful wizard or whatever.)

    Everything else on the list, though… Man versus man? Check. (It would be rather hard NOT to use that form of conflict.) Man versus technology? Man versus the supernatural? Well, it probably depends on your definitions, and I’m gonna plead Clarke’s Law on those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clarke’s Law…hahahaha! I laugh because I have a friend who I was talking to just a few days ago who brought this up and I was like, “Huh?”

      I’m going to copy and paste the breakdown (from Wikipedia) for anyone who is trolling the comments. The third law is the most applicable to this discussion, but they all are fun. I didn’t have a clue, so I can assume others might also be lost in the sauce.

      Clarke’s first law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

      Clarke’s second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

      Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      Thanks for shedding some more light on the concept and broadening the depth of information here. As always, you bring a lot to the table.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Character Qualities: How to Analyze Characters and Use Their Qualities to Your Advantage – M.L.S. Weech

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