Every well-written plot needs a well-written conflict. From it’s insurgence to it’s ending, conflict is the foundation for a well-written story. It should be the obstacle between your protagonist and their goal. But oftentimes, fantasy tends to be the home to incredibly complex conflicts. Some extend through a series, some feel like a series to read. So, how do people come up with such detailed conflicts? Is it necessary for your narrative? Let’s delve deeper into conflict as a literary device.
If I had a dime for how much we talked about conflicts in class, I’d be a millionaire. But, for the sake of building an introduction, we’re going over it again. Broadly, conflicts can be divided into 2 categories: External and Internal. External conflicts happen outside the character, think of it like a physical barrier. Internal conflicts happen within the character, like a mental/emotional barrier. Both types are meant to be obstacles between the protagonist and their end goal. There’s also the different types of conflict, Man vs Man, Man vs Society, Man vs Nature, Man vs Supernatural, and Man vs Technology. Some say there's 7 or 8, but the gist is there's forces (physical or mental) that prevent the protagonist from completing their quest.
Okay, you already know what goes into choosing a fitting conflict for your narrative. But how do you make it meaningful? There’s probably a few ways to do this, but I’m going over motives. Motivation is the driving force in all your characters, the protagonist, the side character, and especially the villain (yes, even a metaphorical villain). Just like how the main character has their final goal, so should the villain. Sounds simple, right? It’s because, generally, it is. Most short stories or novels follow that and it turns out good.
I couldn’t list all the kinds of motivation because it’s a topic that's unique to your own story and characters. But, when you add it, give it depth. Example: your villain wants to destroy your protagonists portal home because gasp the villain is also from their home world and wants to recruit your mc. This can even be used later as a redemption arch for that villain if you choose. See how I did that? MC causes the villain to do something bad as a result of both being lost in some weird world thing. Conflicts should be constant battles of cause and effect between two opposing sides. The motive is building under the surface level and adding depth to your world of good versus evil (or themes of moral ambiguity if that's more your thing.)
I'll be brief here because I’m incredibly guilty of this, don’t overdo the motives. Depth and history behind conflicts is wonderful, we love to see it! But, overdoing it can really make a great story mediocre. So I’ll better explain it like this, if it doesn’t directly affect your character's end goal, don’t add it. I do not care about the waning effects of the 7th nation’s monarchy if you’re only staying in nation #2 for the whole book. It makes things unclear and completely diverges off from the main goal. If you’re using foreshadowing for a series, then depth and complexity is amazing. But still, every book has it’s goal. Don’t feel rushed to tell an entire trilogy in a 300 page book. Ultimately this is just introductory advice to building motivations. It can’t be more personal, but I hope it’s eased the painful process of planning out a meaningful conflict.
is a high school sophomore with aspirations for digital storytelling. She always seemed to understand things better if she could read it, versus videos or lectures, so English and History quickly became her favorite subjects. She volunteers for both Juven and The Meraki Organization to tell stories.