Creating Conflicts

By Kristen
Updated July 28, 2007

Conflicts Start with Characters

If you want your conflicts to be important to your audience, then they need to be important to your character. I don't worry about Bill Gates not being able to pay his electric bill because I know he has the cash, but I do worry about my mother not being able to pay her bill because she's living on social security. Naturally, I'm going to want to help her, and the audience will probably want to help her too.

Chances are, your story has more than one character. Since each character has motivations, each character provides an opportunity for conflict. Your antagonist will create the biggest conflicts of all.

To combat your antagonist and all those little conflicts, you also need to know what is it in your protagonist that keeps him from giving up. The conflicts need to be big, but the cost of avoiding those conflicts must be even bigger.

Plot Makes Conflicts Urgent

Every step of your plot is an opportunity for conflict, and the plot will makes those conflicts urgent.

A character who is afraid of elevators doesn't have a problem if he has all day to walk up 20 flights of stairs, but give the man a deadline, a bad heart, or a chase from a serial killer and suddenly the character's little phobia becomes a huge conflict.

The Biggest Conflict of All and the Climax

This is the moment of truth. If it works out, our protagonist will succeed. If it doesn't, our protagonist will have failed. This is the moment that proves or disproves our premise. This is the moment when our protagonist makes the decision to transform, whether it be by taking charge or letting go. The climax is the moment that is bigger than anything else in the story and changes everything forever.