kinds of conflicts

by Robin Snow

Question: Two men glare at each other. Then, a tree falls and pins them both to the ground. What kind of conflict exists in both situations?

Answer: I assume this is a follow-up to your question about internal versus external conflict?

In this example, you've presented a situation with two types of external conflict. You have the implied conflict between the two men ("Man vs. Man" is the traditional label for this type of conflict). Second, the falling tree which traps the two men would be an example of Man vs. Nature. In each case, the main character, through whose eyes we experience the story, is in conflict with something outside himself.

Let's say you want to add internal conflict to this scene. You might have the main character in a position where he is uncertain how to deal with his adversary. He may have his usual response to such situations, but he will also have the example of an impact character - someone who would take a very different approach. The main character cannot be certain what the right thing to do is. The conflict over what to do, how to decide or act, takes place within the main character's own mind.

For example, maybe his instinct is to attack the other man, but then he has the example of his priest who has been teaching him to give up his life of violence. This moment is the test to see which way he will go.

On the other hand, let's say we have the two men trapped under the tree. Maybe the main character is someone who would normally save himself and leave the other man to die. The test is whether this time he will act differently and help the other man, or stick with his usual way of doing things.

Or perhaps the main character is someone who, in the past, would rather have died than ask for help. The internal conflict may be over whether he can give up his pride and ask his enemy to aid him.

Hope this helps.

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