Conflict occurs when a person struggles against another person, society, nature, a machine, an animal, or his or her conscience.

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Every interesting story contains conflict. Good stories have conflict because people like reading about a struggle or a fight. We like reading about struggles and fights because we really like finding out how people overcome their struggles or win their fights.

Types of conflict

There are so many different types of conflict, it can help to break it down into categories. Here are some common categories:

This isn't a complete list of all the different possible kind of conflict. For example, if a dog is afraid of a vacuum cleaner, that would be animal versus machine conflict.

Conflict makes stories interesting. Want proof?

Why is conflict important?

Here's a demonstration of how powerful conflict can be as a tool to draw you into a story. Each of these stories stops before the ending. Tell the truth: which of these stories do you wish you could keep reading?

A story with conflict

Rick parked his old Toyota on the moonlit, oil stained concrete behind his apartment, then struggled as usual to remove his key from the ignition. "Damn it!" he hissed, knowing his sick dog, Lady, was inside and hadn't eaten for twelve hours. Muttering curses under his breath, he twisted and pulled at the key, unaware of the towering shadow of a man who approached noiselessly from the left. The man put a gloved hand on the unlocked car door and tore it open, reaching inside to grab the box that contained the only evidence Rick had against the man who tried to destroy his...

A story without conflict

Rick parked his old Toyota on the clean, moonlit concrete behind his apartment, locked his car, and went inside. His dog, Lady, wagged her tail and he fed her dinner. Then, Rick took a shower and sat down in his favorite chair to read a magazine about different kinds of coffee beans. His friend Mike called him and they spoke for a few minutes about tomorrow's bike ride. "It'll be a beautiful day," Mike said, and Rick enthusiastically agreed. Later, Rick brushed his teeth and climbed into bed, thinking about tomorrow's coffee and bike ride. Rick's bike is a fourteen-speed...

Identifying multiple conflicts

Most stories, films, and real-life situations contain multiple instances of conflict. Here's an example. Can you identify the following kinds of conflict?

Monique slammed down her cell phone when she read the text from Anthony, and she swore she'd get even with him. The first thing to do, she thought, was to call Brittany, so she picked up her phone. Maybe Brittany can talk me out of this, she thought, because she really didn't want to hurt Anthony. She tried to dial Brittany's number, but the screen was a swirl of useless color; she had smashed the screen and broken the phone when she slammed it down.

Next steps

First, think of your favorite movie, book, or TV show. What are the main conflicts? If you can think of one or two, then you're on your way to become a master of conflict. Click on the Brainsheet on the top of this page to read more about conflict and show your teacher you "get it." You can also watch the video, above, to learn about conflict.