When planning you story structure one of the most fundamental things you must consider is the conflict. Without conflict there is no point in writing a story, is there?
So, let’s take a look at the 6 different types of conflict you can build your story structure around and how each of them effects the outcome of your story differently.
Hero vs. Society
In this type of conflict you have the hero who is beset upon by a social group. It could be society as a whole or a smaller group within the society. An example of this would be Martin Luther speaking out against the Catholic Church during the reformation. It could also be a family of polygamists who must masquerade themselves for fear of being found out by a society who considers their behavior illegal.
This type of conflict is great for portraying social hypocrisy as in To Kill A Mockingbird.
In this type of conflict the hero doesn’t actually have to be up against a god. It could be fate, chronic bad luck, destiny or any other invisible or otherworldly force of life.
An example of this is someone who blames the problems of their life on some sort of bad karma that they inherited from a past life. This type of character is going to have a significantly different mindset (a victim’s mindset) than someone who believes he or she is responsible for the outcome of his life even if he might not be at fault for the circumstances.
Hero vs Alternative Reality
In this type of conflict the hero typically faces some new sort of technology that throws into question the potential of human existence. For example, Neo coming to realize the world was not as he thought it was in The Matrix or a computer taking control of everything in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This type of conflict is typically used in Steampunk or other speculative fiction and allows us put our theoretical beliefs to question in a more concrete reality. An example of this is someone believing that murder is wrong being placed in a position where they must choose between killing one innocent person to save a group of guilty people.
Hmmm, makes for an interesting conundrum, don’t it?
- Hero vs. Himself
“I’m such an idiot, doh!”
Ever had a case of internal conflict? It seems to be pretty common, maybe even contagious. In this type of conflict the focus is no longer on the society as a whole but the individual. The indecisiveness of Hamlet is a perfect example of this.
In this type of conflict the hero can investigate what is truly important to him or her and the reader can do so through the hero.
Hero vs. Environment
In this type of conflict the hero is at conflict with a situation in his life. The story of John Merrick, The Elephant Man, is this type of story. He has to come to grips with the reality of who he is.
Or it could be a story about a group of school boys stranded on an island who adapt to the new situation their lives have been placed in as in Lord of the Flies.
In this type of story structure conflict the hero is pitted against a rival in competition over something. It could be two boys vying for the hand of the same girl.
But, if one of the boys has concerns about vying for this girl the conflict becomes one of hero vs himself and the story structure will change fundamentally. Or, perhaps the girl in question is actually a robot. Now the story focuses on the question of what is love rather than the competition between the two boys.
So there you go, the six types of conflict. You can use just one of them. But, if you combine them at different points in your story structure, it will be more interesting.
For example, two boys vying for the affections of a girl; what happens if one of them finds she is a robot? What happens if they both do?