Conflict is the lifeblood of any story, driving the narrative forward while creating tension and stakes that keep audiences engaged. In fiction writing, every story thrives on conflict—whether it’s an epic battle between good and evil or a clash of personalities in a relationship. But not every conflict qualifies as meaningful, capable of evoking emotions in readers and deepening their connection to your characters.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to develop conflicts that matter, helping you craft gripping narratives that resonate with readers long after they’ve finished your book.
1. Know your characters inside-out
To create meaningful conflicts, start by fully understanding your characters—what drives them, what scares them, and what they desire most. Develop well-rounded characters with deep motivations and fears. When pitting two characters against one another in a conflict, consider their personal goals and what’s at stake for each of them—this will help you create natural clashes of motivation that resonate with your audience.
2. Stay rooted in theme
An engaging conflict should be connected to the story’s overall theme, highlighting its universality by escalating the stakes for the protagonist’s struggle against obstacles. Consider what message you want to convey through your story and identify key thematic touchstones worthy of exploration through conflict scenarios.
For example, if your story revolves around personal sacrifice made for love, make sure the main character is faced with choices that force them to prioritize their own needs versus those they care about.
3. Connect conflicts to character growth
Meaningful conflicts should allow your characters to adapt and evolve throughout your storyline. When faced with challenges or oppositions, use these situations as opportunities for character growth—providing emotional resolutions or compelling revelations that prompt change in character behavior, beliefs or outlook.
Always think about how the issues involved in any given conflict are pushing your characters toward change or challenging their preconceived notions about themselves or the world.
4. Consider multiple layers of conflict
The most memorable stories consist of multiple layers of conflict, woven into both internal and external struggles. Internal conflicts reside within characters’ minds—such as an individual grappling with self-doubt—and can prove psychologically complex and relatable for readers seeking understanding.
External conflicts, on the other hand, stem from forces outside a character (including other characters), such as societal expectations or physical obstacles hindering progress.
Skilled writers will incorporate a mix of both types into their stories—creating intricate networks of evolving clashes designed to sustain tension without allowing their narratives to become mired in melodrama.
5. Balance escalation with resolution
A carefully crafted balance between escalating problems and providing temporary resolutions will maintain reader engagement without exhausting their emotional investments. As much as the problems within your plot will drive your storyline forward, offering satisfying solutions—even short-term ones—rewards reader perseverance and allows them time to breathe before confronting fresh challenges.
6. Don’t be afraid to upend expectations
Some of the most powerful conflicts are those that defy expectation or throw unexpected surprises at both protagonists and readers alike. Recognize common genre tropes when developing conflicts in your stories—and use this awareness to devise unique twists that’ll keep audiences guessing (and turning pages).
Creating meaningful conflicts comes down to understanding your characters’ motivations and desires, tethering their struggles to broader themes or ideas relevant beyond your fictional universe, and exploring multiple facets of conflict simultaneously—with an eye toward continuous character growth.
Remember to advance your plot through purposeful problems resolvable only via character engagement or evolution—for intentional conflicts crafted toward moving conclusions capable of resonating with audiences across varied fictional settings.
Every author strives for emotionally driven narratives driven by potent character interplay—that investing time into devising such intricate conflicts is essential for ensuring memorability in today’s competitive literary landscape is undeniable.