Why Is Conflict Important in Stories? (8 Reasons)

Conflict is at the heart of every memorable story, capturing the reader’s attention and evoking strong emotions. It drives the narrative forward, creating tension and shaping the characters’ development.

Without conflict, stories would lack depth, rendering them uninteresting and forgettable. The significance of conflict in storytelling cannot be overstated, as it adds drama, intrigue, and excitement to any narrative.

Table of Contents

Sources of Conflict

Conflict is an essential element in stories as it drives the plot forward and keeps the audience engaged. By understanding the different sources of conflict, we can better appreciate the intricate dynamics that shape our favorite stories and the roles they play in the art of storytelling.

Character Goals and Motivations

One of the primary sources of conflict in a story is the goals and motivations of the characters. Characters often have differing objectives, desires, or beliefs, which can lead to tension and disagreement. This conflict can occur between the protagonist and antagonist or between any other characters in the story.

Opposing Forces

Opposing forces can also create conflict in a story. These forces can be external, such as other characters, organizations, or society, or internal, such as a character’s emotions, fears, or values. These opposing forces often work against the protagonist, making it harder for them to achieve their goal.


Circumstances can provide a source of conflict as well. The situation a character finds themselves in, such as being trapped in a dangerous environment or facing a difficult decision, can create tension and suspense in a story. The character’s responses to these challenging circumstances contribute to the overall conflict.


Finally, threats can act as a source of conflict in a story. These threats can manifest in various forms, such as physical dangers, emotional challenges, or social pressures. The characters must navigate these threats while trying to achieve their goals, making the story exciting and compelling for the audience.

Types of Conflict

To better understand the indispensable role of conflict in stories, it is essential to delve into the various types of conflict that authors employ to breathe life into their narratives.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict is a vital aspect of storytelling that adds depth and complexity to characters, driving the narrative forward. By understanding the intricate dynamics of internal conflict, writers can create more engaging, relatable stories that captivate readers and leave a lasting impact.

Character’s Inner Struggle

At the core of the internal conflict is the character’s inner struggle, a battle against their own nature, personal beliefs, or weaknesses. This can manifest in various ways, such as a character wrestling with the consequences of their actions, overcoming an addiction, or grappling with self-doubt. These internal oppositions often stem from competing wants and needs, which create tension and a sense of unease.

Emotional Turmoil

Emotional turmoil is another crucial element of internal conflict as characters confront their feelings, desires, and fears. A powerful, relatable portrayal of emotional distress can make a character more compelling, inviting readers to empathize and engage deeper with the story.

The emotional turmoil experienced by characters can push them towards taking actions they might not have otherwise considered, further driving the story’s progression.

Transformation and Growth

A significant outcome of internal conflict is personal transformation and growth. As characters confront their struggles, learn from their experiences, and adapt to evolving circumstances, they become more fully realized individuals.

This character development is crucial for maintaining reader interest and investment, as it allows for a dynamic, multi-dimensional portrayal of the story’s central figures.

External Conflict

External conflict is a crucial aspect of storytelling, as it drives the plot and reveals the true nature of the characters. External conflict also creates friction between characters and their surroundings, providing an engaging framework for storytelling.

Type of External ConflictDescriptionExample
Man vs. ManThis involves a struggle between two characters, typically the protagonist and antagonist. The characters may have opposing goals, values, or personality traits, which cause them to conflict with one another.

The resolution of this conflict often leads to character growth, learning, or a significant change in circumstances.
Rivalries, Moral Dilemmas, and Physical Battles
Man vs. SocietyIn this external conflict, a character is pitted against societal values, norms, and expectations. The protagonist may struggle with the limitations imposed by society, seeking to challenge or change the status quo.

This conflict highlights the differences between the individual and the collective, often addressing themes of conformity, rebellion, and personal freedom.
Social Outcasts, Revolutionaries, and Whistleblowers
Man vs. NatureThe character faces challenges imposed by the natural world, often functioning as a test of their resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness.

The protagonist must contend with forces beyond their control, such as severe weather, natural disasters, or wild animals.

This type of external conflict emphasizes the vulnerability of humans when faced with the unpredictability of nature and often explores themes of survival and human perseverance.
Adventure and Survival Stories
Man vs. TechnologyThis external conflict arises when a character struggles against technological advancements or devices. The protagonist may find themselves grappling with the implications of new technology, questioning its ethics, or battling against a technological threat.

This conflict can serve as a reminder of the potential dangers of unbridled technological progress and often engages with themes of humanity, morality, and control.
Dystopian, Sci-fi, and Cautionary tales

Techniques for Introducing Conflict

Conflict serves as the driving force behind character development, plot progression, and, ultimately, an engaging narrative. As we delve into the significance of conflict in stories, it is crucial to explore the various techniques writers can employ to introduce conflict in their narratives effectively.


Foreshadowing is a technique where the author plants subtle hints or clues about future events in the story. This can create anticipation and tension as readers are left to wonder how these hints will unfold or connect to the main conflict. Foreshadowing can take many forms, such as symbolic imagery, character dialogue, or specific actions.

For example, imagine a story in which a character finds a mysterious locket with an inscription that hints at a long-lost family secret. This foreshadowing sets the stage for a storyline in which the character gradually uncovers the truth, creating intrigue and conflict.


Flashbacks are an effective tool for introducing conflict, as they allow the author to reveal past events that shape the characters and impact the present story. By providing insight into character motivations and history, flashbacks can help deepen the conflict and promote reader empathy.

An example of using flashbacks could be showcasing a character’s traumatic encounter in their childhood, which now affects their ability to trust others or form meaningful relationships. This backstory not only provides context but also introduces the conflict between the character and those around them.


Subplots are secondary storylines that weave into the main narrative, often introducing additional conflicts for the characters to face. These smaller conflicts can create tension and enrich the overall story while still contributing to the resolution of the main conflict.

In a novel with multiple characters, subplots can be utilized to explore each character’s individual struggles or showcase different perspectives. For instance, a subplot in a crime novel might involve a detective questioning their methods or the personal toll the investigation is taking on their life.

It Captures the Reader’s Attention

Conflict draws readers into the story by creating tension and uncertainty. It raises questions and evokes curiosity, compelling the audience to turn the page to see how the characters will react or cope with the challenges they face.

The Human Connection to Conflict

Conflict resonates with readers on a deeply personal level because it mirrors the struggles and challenges inherent in the human experience. Life is full of conflicts, both internal and external, so readers can easily empathize with the characters as they face similar obstacles.

By presenting relatable conflicts in a story, the authors connect to readers’ own experiences, emotions, and memories, creating a strong emotional connection between the reader and the narrative.

This emotional connection is further strengthened when readers identify with the characters’ feelings, fears, desires, and aspirations. As readers find themselves in the characters’ struggles, they become emotionally invested in the outcome of the conflict.

This involvement motivates readers to keep reading because they genuinely care about the characters and want to see how they overcome their challenges, learn from their mistakes, and grow as individuals.

Posing Thought-Provoking Questions

A well-crafted conflict serves not only to move the story forward and evoke emotional responses but also to stimulate the reader’s intellect by raising thought-provoking questions. These questions can explore a wide range of themes and issues, such as morality, identity, loyalty, social justice, or the nature of humanity.

By presenting conflicts that challenge the characters’ beliefs and force them to confront these complex questions, a story encourages readers to examine their own perspectives and think critically, enriching and rewarding the reading experience.

When a conflict raises ethical or philosophical questions, it invites readers to consider multiple points of view and analyze the possible consequences of different actions.

This intellectual engagement can lead to lively debates and discussions, as readers are encouraged to consider the dilemmas presented in the story and think about possible solutions or responses. Through this active engagement with the narrative, readers are drawn into the story and can better empathize with the characters and their choices.

Establishing Conflict Variations

Introducing different types of conflict within a story can help capture the reader’s attention by adding variety and unpredictability to the narrative. This variety keeps readers engaged and curious as they are continuously exposed to new challenges and obstacles faced by the characters.

The different types of conflicts can be combined in countless ways to create intricate and multilayered stories that keep readers guessing and maintain their interest.

By interweaving different conflicts, authors can create complex narratives that reflect the complexity of real-life experiences making the story more realistic and relatable to readers. This diversity of conflict also allows for the exploration of different themes and perspectives, giving readers a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying messages and intentions of the story.

It Drives the Plot

Conflict is the engine that propels the plot forward. It gives the story a purpose by creating obstacles for the characters to overcome and goals for them to pursue. A well-crafted conflict drives change and creates a dynamic plot that keeps the reader engaged.

Providing Structure and Pacing

A well-structured narrative often follows a pattern of rising and falling action, with conflict as the driving force behind these fluctuations. The introduction of conflict marks the beginning of the rising action of a narrative as the tension and stakes begin to escalate.

This rising action leads to a climax where the conflict reaches its most intense point, and the characters are forced to confront their challenges head-on. After the climax, the story transitions to the falling action, where the conflict begins to resolve, and the consequences of the characters’ actions are explored.

This pattern of rising and falling action creates a series of ups and downs in the narrative and allows for a balance between moments of tension and periods of calm.

Pacing is also critical to maintaining reader engagement and ensuring that the story unfolds at a satisfying rate. Conflict plays a significant role in determining the pace of a narrative because the frequency and intensity of conflict can create a sense of urgency or leisure.

By strategically using conflict in the story, the authors can influence pacing to achieve the desired effect. For example, a rapid succession of conflicts with much at stake can create a fast-paced, action-packed narrative, while a more measured approach to conflict can result in a slower, more introspective story.

Supporting Subplots and Parallel Narratives

Subplots and parallel narratives are additional storylines that run alongside the main plot and provide opportunities for further character development, thematic exploration, and engagement with the reader. By incorporating multiple conflicts into these storylines, authors can create a rich tapestry of interconnected events that enrich the story and keep readers interested.

Subplots are often about secondary characters and their particular challenges or conflicts. These conflicts can complement or contrast with the main plot, providing a broader context and deepening the reader’s understanding of the story’s themes and messages.

For example, a subplot might explore a character’s personal journey of self-discovery that parallels the protagonist’s quest to save the world. By integrating conflict into these subplots, authors can create a more dynamic and multifaceted narrative that offers different perspectives on the central themes.

Parallel narratives, on the other hand, are distinct storylines that unfold simultaneously within the same story. These narratives often overlap with the main plot at key moments, revealing hidden connections and adding further layers of meaning to the story.

By weaving multiple conflicts into these parallel narratives, authors can create a sense of suspense and thrill that engages readers and leaves them anxiously waiting to see how the various storylines will converge. These interconnected conflicts can also serve to enrich the story’s world as they reveal the complex dynamics and relationships between the characters and their surroundings.

It Helps in Character Development

A conflict tests the characters’ values and beliefs, forcing them to adapt and evolve. Through conflict, characters reveal their true natures and grow throughout their personal journeys.

Exposing Weaknesses and Flaws

Exposing weaknesses and flaws is a critical aspect of character development because it adds depth and complexity to fictional personalities. When conflict arises, characters often reach their limits, bringing to light hidden weaknesses and flaws that might otherwise have remained concealed. This exposure is essential for a number of reasons:

  1. Revealing a character’s weaknesses creates relatability. No one is perfect, and showing a character’s imperfections makes them seem more authentic and human.
  2. Audiences can connect with characters on a deeper level when they see them struggling with similar challenges and emotions as they do in their own lives. This connection is vital for fostering empathy and keeping readers emotionally invested in the story.
  3. It provides opportunities for growth. Characters, much like people, learn from their mistakes and failures.

    By confronting their vulnerabilities, characters are prompted to embark on a journey of self-discovery and introspection. This process allows them to acknowledge their issues, work through them, and ultimately emerge as more mature and well-rounded individuals.

Testing Values and Beliefs

When characters face challenges and dilemmas, they are often forced to confront their deeply held values and beliefs, leading to growth and transformation. This soon leads to significant character growth. When characters confront their beliefs, they may come to realize that their initial beliefs were misguided or flawed.

This realization may also cause a character to reevaluate their priorities, adjust their worldview, and make a significant transformation. The evolution of a character’s values and beliefs contributes to their overall development and makes them more nuanced and complex.

Building Resilience

Building resilience contributes to a character’s emotional depth and complexity. When characters face difficulties, they learn valuable lessons about perseverance, determination, and inner strength. These experiences not only shape their personalities but also teach them essential life skills, making them more relatable and compelling.

By showcasing a character’s journey towards resilience, the authors create a multifaceted and dynamic personality with whom readers can empathize and sympathize.

Resilience also allows for a more compelling and suspenseful narrative. When characters become more resilient, they’re better equipped to overcome new challenges and setbacks.

This increased ability to adapt and endure adversity keeps the story moving along briskly and maintains suspense. Readers can thus better empathize with the characters’ journey and are eager to see how they overcome the obstacles they face.

It Creates Relatable Characters

Characters experiencing conflict become more relatable, as the audience can empathize with their struggles and emotions. The universal nature of conflict allows readers to see their own lives reflected in the story, forming a connection with the characters.

Realistic Dialogue

As characters express their thoughts, feelings, and intentions through dialogue, the disagreements, misunderstandings, and power struggles that drive the narrative becomes more evident. When characters argue or negotiate, their words reflect the external conflicts they face, making the story more exciting and relatable.

In addition, dialogue can also be used to explore a character’s inner struggles. Through introspective conversations or subtle hints, characters can express their doubts, fears, and conflicting emotions, shedding light on the inner conflicts that shape their journey.

By giving readers a glimpse into your characters’ inner turmoil, you can create a deeper emotional connection and heighten the impact of the conflicts they face.


Authentic characters possess a rich backstory, unique traits, and a balance of strengths and weaknesses that naturally lead to real and believable conflict. By grounding your characters in reality and making them feel like genuine individuals, the conflicts they face become more engaging and impactful for your readers.

A detailed and well-crafted backstory plays a crucial role in shaping a character’s motivations and the conflicts they face. A character’s past experiences, upbringing, and relationships all contribute to their current desires and challenges.

By weaving a character’s backstory into the narrative, you can uncover the deeper reasons behind their actions and decisions, making their conflicts feel more organic and meaningful.

When you give your characters unique traits, habits, or quirks, you not only make them stand out, but you also add depth and dimension to the conflicts they face. These distinctive qualities can either help or hinder your characters along the way by adding complexity to the challenges they encounter.


When characters are vulnerable, it adds depth and complexity to the conflicts they face. Vulnerable characters are more likely to make mistakes, experience setbacks, and face their fears or shortcomings, which in turn leads to more exciting and emotional conflicts.

By revealing a character’s vulnerable side, you allow readers to empathize with their struggles, making the conflicts they face more impactful and meaningful.

In addition, vulnerability can be used to create tension and heighten the stakes of a conflict. When characters are confronted with situations that threaten to reveal their vulnerabilities, they are forced to confront and overcome them.

This can lead to compelling character arcs and transformative growth as characters learn to deal with their vulnerabilities and emerge stronger for facing them.

It Creates Emotional Engagement

Conflict heightens emotional engagement by allowing readers to experience various emotions through the characters’ struggles. Readers find themselves immersed in the story as they follow the emotional journey of the characters, sharing their anxieties, disappointments, and triumphs.

Contrasting Perspectives and Dynamic Relationships

When characters with differing views and values come together, it sparks fascinating interactions and reveals the complexity of human nature. This complexity keeps the reader engaged as they become invested in understanding each character’s motivations and perspectives.

Moreover, these contrasting perspectives often lead to dynamic relationships between characters as they learn from each other and challenge each other’s beliefs. Such relationships can evolve throughout the story, with characters forming alliances, experiencing betrayals, or managing the tensions that arise from their differences.

These evolving relationships ensure that readers are emotionally involved as they witness the characters’ development both individually and in relation to one another.

In addition, exploring contrasting perspectives and dynamic relationships through conflict can encourage readers to reflect on their own beliefs and experiences.

By presenting different points of view on various issues, stories can provoke thought and discussion and allow readers to examine their own stances on these issues. This reflection deepens readers’ emotional engagement as they connect with the story on a more personal level.

Surprising Twists and Revelations

Conflicts are often the catalyst for surprising twists and revelations as characters face challenges and make decisions that can lead to unforeseen consequences.

By including surprising elements in conflicts, authors can raise the stakes of the story so that readers are more emotionally invested in the outcome. As readers eagerly anticipate what will happen next and how the characters will react, their emotional connection to the story deepens.

In addition, surprising twists and revelations often force characters to evolve and adapt, revealing new facets of their personalities and allowing for further character development. As the characters face these unexpected challenges and grow from these experiences, readers become more emotionally connected to them, rooting for their success and empathizing with their struggles.

Catharsis and Emotional Release

Conflicts are the driving force behind the tension and thrill of a story, and their resolution often leads to a sense of catharsis-an emotional release that arises from the culmination of the character’s struggles and the story’s climax.

The journey that characters go through as they overcome conflicts, face challenges, and make difficult decisions creates an emotional connection between readers and the story. The longer readers follow this journey, the more they become invested in the characters and the outcome of their struggles.

When the story reaches its climax, and the conflicts are resolved, readers experience a range of emotions, such as relief, joy, sadness, or a sense of closure. This emotional release can create a lasting bond between the reader and the story, making it a truly memorable and compelling experience.

In addition, catharsis and emotional release are essential to character growth and transformation. By facing conflicts and overcoming obstacles, characters learn valuable lessons and evolve as individuals.

Witnessing this development and the emotional release that comes with it allows readers to empathize with the characters and feel a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment, which further deepens their emotional engagement with the story.

It Highlights the Themes and Messages

Conflict helps to bring the themes and messages of a story to the forefront. It allows readers to critically explore and ponder ideas, values, and issues that arise as characters navigate through their situations, leading to a deeper understanding of the narrative’s underlying meaning.

Contrast and Comparison

Contrast and comparison play a crucial role in emphasizing themes and messages in a story. When authors craft narratives, they often use conflict to place opposing forces, ideas, or values side by side. This technique highlights the differences between these elements and encourages readers to reflect on their implications and significance.

By presenting opposing points of view, authors can explore different aspects of an issue and give readers a deeper understanding of the message being conveyed.

For instance, in a story dealing with the theme of good versus evil, the conflict between a heroic protagonist and a villainous antagonist allows readers to examine the motivations, actions, and consequences of both sides. This comparison can help clarify the story’s message about the importance of choosing a virtuous path.

Moreover, contrast and comparison can also illustrate the possible consequences of different choices or beliefs. When characters confront dilemmas or face moral doubts, their choices, and their consequences serve as a mirror for the themes and messages. Readers can then draw conclusions based on the outcomes of these choices that reinforce the central ideas of the story.

Character Development

Character development is a vital aspect of storytelling and plays a significant role in highlighting themes and messages. When characters face conflict and challenges, they are pushed to evolve and grow, often learning valuable lessons along the way.

This growth not only makes characters more relatable and engaging but also allows readers to better understand the themes and messages as the characters’ actions embody them.

One of the most important ways to drive character development is to force characters to confront their fears, flaws, or shortcomings. In overcoming obstacles, characters often experience personal growth and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. This transformation can relate directly to the themes of the story and illustrate the consequences of change and growth on an individual level.

Furthermore, character development can provide insight into characters’ motivations and beliefs, revealing their true nature. As characters navigate conflicts and make choices, readers gain a deeper understanding of their values and desires.

These insights can help clarify and emphasize the story’s themes and messages, as the characters’ actions and decisions serve as examples of the ideas being explored.

Emotional impact

Conflicts create high stakes for the characters, which increases the tension and drama of the story. Because readers are emotionally involved in the characters’ struggles, they are more likely to be affected by the story’s themes and messages.

The heightened emotions experienced by readers can make these themes feel more important and pressing, creating a lasting impact long after the story is finished.

The emotional responses provoked by conflict can also serve as a catalyst for readers to reflect on their own beliefs, values, and experiences. As readers empathize with the characters and the challenges they face, they may question their own perspectives and rethink their preconceptions.

This self-reflection can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the story’s themes and messages, making them more meaningful and resonant.

In addition, the emotional impact can also create a sense of connection between readers and the story. When readers are touched by a story, they may feel connected to the characters and the experiences they have. This connection can reinforce the themes and messages of the story as readers become more engaged in the ideas and lessons presented.

It Builds Suspense

Conflict creates suspense by introducing uncertainty and heightening drama. The unpredictable nature of conflict keeps readers engaged and guessing, making the narrative more gripping and exciting.

Create Obstacles and Challenges for the Characters

Without conflict, a story would be a flat, uneventful journey lacking the elements that captivate readers and viewers. The presence of conflict not only adds depth to the narrative but also propels the story forward as characters are confronted with various issues that require their attention and effort.

When characters encounter obstacles and challenges, they are forced to face their fears, think creatively, and take risks. This process of overcoming hurdles not only contributes to character development but also gives readers and viewers a sense of excitement and anticipation. The uncertainty of whether the characters will succeed in resolving the conflict makes us root for them and adds to the overall suspense of the story.

In addition, introducing obstacles and challenges allows for a more dynamic and varied narrative, as characters must adapt and evolve to overcome these hurdles. The more they overcome the conflicts, the more we are drawn into their journey and the story as a whole, making us eager to know what happens next.

Force Characters to Make Tough Decisions

Conflicts not only bring obstacles and challenges, but it also forces characters to make difficult decisions. These decisions often carry significant weight, as they can greatly affect the course of the story and the character’s development.

When faced with conflict, characters must weigh the pros and cons of their choices, consider the possible consequences, and determine the best course of action. This process adds an extra layer of suspense to the story, as we wonder what choice the character will make and how it will affect the story.

As readers or viewers, we become increasingly invested in the character’s decision-making process. We put ourselves in their shoes, wondering what we would do in their situation, and were eager to see the outcome of their choice. The unpredictability of these decisions keeps us engaged, and we are eager to see how the story unfolds and how the characters deal with the consequences of their choices.

Moreover, the decisions characters make in response to conflict can lead to unexpected plot twists. These surprises heighten the suspense, making the story even more exciting and unpredictable.

Reveal a Character’s True Nature

In the heat of conflict, characters may react in ways that surprise both themselves and the audience, leading to unexpected twists and new levels of complexity within the story. These revelations can change our perception of the characters and sometimes make us reevaluate our opinions of them.

This constant evolution keeps the story fresh, intriguing, and suspenseful, as we never know exactly what to expect from the characters or how they will handle the challenges they face.

Because conflicts reveal a character’s true nature, they also contribute to character development and growth. Characters may be forced to confront their own weaknesses or rethink their beliefs, leading to transformative experiences that shape them throughout the story.

These character arcs not only add depth to the narrative but also contribute to the overall suspense as we become invested in the characters’ personal journeys and eagerly await the resolution of their inner conflicts.

Set the Stage for Thrilling Climaxes

Climactic moments are the pinnacle of suspense, as they often involve high-stakes confrontations, difficult choices, and nail-biting tension. The buildup of conflict throughout the story paves the way for the climax and makes it feel like a natural and satisfying resolution to the overarching conflicts of the narrative.

In a well-crafted story, the climax is not only a moment of heightened suspense but also an opportunity for the characters to show their growth, face their fears, and make important decisions that will affect the outcome of the story.

The climax serves as a crucial turning point in the narrative, often leading to the resolution of the main conflicts and setting the stage for the denouement, where any remaining loose ends are resolved.

As we approach the climax, our anticipation and emotional involvement in the story are at their peak. The tension that has been building throughout the narrative reaches a fevered pitch, keeping us on the edge of our seats as we wonder how the characters will overcome their final challenges and what the outcome will be.

A well-executed climax leaves us with a sense of satisfaction and resolution that makes the journey through the story’s conflicts and suspenseful moments seem worthwhile and rewarding.

It Expresses Real-Life Issues

Conflict in fiction enables writers to explore real-life issues, providing a platform for discussing and reflecting on complex human experiences. By tackling these issues, stories can entertain and educate readers simultaneously, resonating with their own experiences and challenging them to consider different perspectives.

Exploration of Themes

Conflicts in a story can be a powerful way to explore a variety of themes that are relevant to our lives. When authors include conflicts that resonate with these themes, they create a rich tapestry that allows us to reflect on and better understand the complexity of our world.

By exploring themes, stories can address universal human experiences such as love, loss, identity, and morality. By weaving these themes into the narrative, authors encourage readers to reflect on their own beliefs, attitudes, and values. This introspection can lead to personal growth, a deeper understanding of others, and even a shift in our worldview.

For example, in a story dealing with themes of love and loss, conflict may arise between characters who struggle with the balance between holding on to the past and embracing the present. As readers follow the characters’ journey, they are asked to consider their own experiences and feelings about love, loss, and moving forward.

Social Commentary

By skillfully revealing issues that relate to real life, authors can create compelling, thought-provoking, and ultimately relatable stories that force readers to reflect on their own experiences and beliefs.

The conflict reflects the challenges people face every day, and incorporating these conflicts into a narrative, especially when they have social implications, illuminates our understanding of society and its imperfections.

Incorporating social conflicts within a story not only adds depth and meaning to the narrative but also speaks to the reader on an emotional level. A relatable conflict helps the reader sympathize with the characters, and by tackling real-life issues, the story becomes an avenue for discussion and personal growth.

This connection highlights the importance of conflict, as it serves as a foundation for character development, social change, and a reflection of the human condition.

Elements of Storytelling that Contribute to Conflict

Various elements of storytelling can contribute to conflict and illuminate the complicated dance of opposing forces that breathe life into the stories that captivate us. From character motivations to external pressures, these elements work together to create a dynamic, emotionally charged experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Setting and Circumstance

Setting and circumstance play an essential role in creating conflict within a story. By placing characters in a specific environment or situation, the author can evoke tension, forcing characters to face challenges and make choices that ultimately drive the story forward.

For example, in a dystopian novel, the setting may involve an oppressive government that threatens the protagonist’s freedom, creating a central conflict for the story. Additionally, circumstances such as natural disasters or unexpected events can introduce conflict by creating obstacles for the characters to overcome.

Character Motivations

Every character has their own motivations, desires, and goals. Conflicting motivations can create tension and conflict between characters as they each pursue their objectives, sometimes at the expense of others. This strife is what moves the plot ahead and keeps the reader engaged in the story.

In a classic example from literature, Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other creates conflict with their respective families’ longstanding feud. Their motivations to be together directly oppose the values and expectations of those around them, leading to escalation and tragedy.

Character Weaknesses

Character weaknesses are another essential aspect of creating conflict in storytelling. By giving characters imperfections and vulnerabilities, authors make them relatable and human. These weaknesses can be the source of internal struggles, as characters must confront their own flaws and make choices that aren’t always easy.

For instance, a protagonist with self-doubt may struggle to make a critical decision when faced with a major turning point in the story. This internal conflict adds depth to the character and keeps the reader invested in their journey.


Change is an inevitable part of the human experience, and its impact on characters is another significant source of conflict in stories. Change can be external, such as the introduction of a new character or a shift in the social or political landscape. It can also be internal, as characters grow and evolve over time, sometimes forcing them to confront new challenges.

A notable example is the bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, where the protagonist undergoes personal growth and development, often encountering conflicts and obstacles along the way. These changes and experiences contribute to the overall narrative and make the story dynamic and compelling.

The Structure of Conflict in Stories

Conflict plays a crucial role in shaping the emotional and thematic arcs of a narrative, and authors can skillfully manipulate this essential element to create an unforgettable reading experience. By examining the anatomy of conflict, writers can harness its power to create enthralling tales that leave lasting impressions.


At the beginning of a story, conflict is introduced to set the stage and provide a starting point for the narrative. This may involve presenting the protagonist with a problem to solve, a goal to achieve, or a decision to make, often generating external or internal tension.

This early stage is crucial for engaging the reader’s curiosity, as it invites them to follow the protagonist’s journey and anticipate the resulting consequences of their choices.

Rising Tension

As the story progresses, rising tension unfolds as conflicts accumulate and escalate. This phase sees characters facing obstacles, setbacks, or complications, which can either stem from external sources (e.g., antagonists, societal norms) or from the protagonists themselves (e.g., inner struggles, doubts, fears).

Rising tension not only sustains the reader’s interest but also contributes to character development, revealing the protagonists’ strengths and weaknesses as they navigate the adversities before them.


The climax is the turning point of the story, where the conflict reaches its peak, and the protagonist must confront the pivotal challenge. This moment of heightened tension and emotional intensity tests the characters’ abilities, often forcing them to confront and overcome their inner struggles. Additionally, the climax serves as a culmination of the narrative so far and prepares the reader for the eventual resolution of the conflict.


In the final stage of the structure, the story’s conflict is resolved, and the loose ends are tied up. This can involve the protagonist achieving or failing in their original quest, revealing the lasting effects of their actions and decisions. The resolution is vital for providing closure for the reader, allowing them to reflect on the story’s overall themes and messages.

The Importance of Stakes

One of the most crucial elements that add depth and tension to this conflict is the presence of stakes. High stakes amplify the significance of a conflict, pushing characters to their limits and challenging them to make critical decisions that can alter the course of their lives.

Elevating Tension

Stakes are directly related to tension in a story. When there is something significant at risk, the tension grows, capturing the interest of the audience. This tension fuels the story’s momentum and keeps the reader invested in the outcome. High stakes often involve great consequences for the protagonist and other characters if they fail, which further heightens the tension experienced by the reader.

For instance, the possibility of losing a loved one or facing severe repercussions adds weight and drives the story toward its climax. The higher the stakes, the more captivating the tale.

Motivating the Protagonist

Whether it’s saving the world, achieving personal growth, or resolving relational conflicts, the stakes provide a reason for the protagonist to persevere and overcome obstacles.

Without clear stakes, the protagonist’s journey might feel aimless and fail to resonate with the reader. By contrast, when the protagonist faces risks and must fight for a meaningful outcome, the story becomes more engaging and relatable.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

Urgency is a natural byproduct of high stakes in a story, as the protagonist faces pressing issues and limited time to resolve them. A ticking clock or dwindling resources contribute to a sense of urgency, pressuring characters to act quickly and intelligently.

Urgency compels readers to turn the page, eager to discover how the protagonist overcomes challenges and avoids potential disaster. By infusing a narrative with deadlines and critical stakes, storytellers effectively keep audiences hooked and invested in the plot’s progression.

Conflict and Resolution

In storytelling, conflict serves as the driving force that propels the narrative forward, giving depth and purpose to the characters and their actions. Conflict and resolution are intertwined elements that form the basis of a satisfying story arc.

From personal struggles to clashing ideologies, the tension that arises from conflict propels characters towards growth and transformation, ultimately leading to a resolution that brings closure and satisfaction.

Building Towards a Climax

Conflict often arises early in a story, setting the stage for the characters to face and overcome obstacles. As the narrative progresses, conflict increases, building tension and leading the story toward a climax. This rising action serves to engage the reader, who becomes invested in the characters’ journey and the ultimate resolution of the conflicts they encounter.

The Moment of Confrontation

The climax of a story is the moment when the primary conflicts come to a head, forcing the characters into direct confrontations with their obstacles. The protagonist may face their antagonist, an internal struggle, or a societal issue. This confrontation addresses the heart of the story and is crucial for moving the narrative toward resolution.

Achieving Resolve and Peace

After the climax, the narrative begins to wind down, with the characters working towards a resolution. This phase of the story, known as the falling action, allows for the loose ends to be tied up and the characters to achieve some form of peace, whether through personal growth or external changes.

In some cases, stories can end on a more ambiguous note, leaving the reader with the opportunity to ponder the implications of the narrative’s conclusion.

Lessons Learned

As the story reaches its end, the characters and the audience often come away with important lessons learned. These lessons can emphasize the importance of certain values, the consequences of the character’s actions or decisions, or highlight the underlying message of the story. In essence, the resolution functions not only as a means to bring closure but also to provide a memorable takeaway for the reader.

Using Conflict in Different Forms of Storytelling

Conflict adds depth and complexity to stories, transcending medium and genre to captivate audiences and propel narratives forward. From the pages of novels to the screens of film and television, conflict continues to be the driving force that brings stories to life, making them relatable and emotionally resonant.

Conflict in Short Stories

Due to their length, short stories often focus on a single conflict to explore a specific theme or idea. This concentrated form of conflict allows readers to quickly become immersed in the narrative, and the resolution of the conflict often serves as a turning point or the climax of the story.

An example of this can be found in the popular short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, where the conflict revolves around a seemingly innocent town tradition that takes a dark turn.

Conflict in Novels

In contrast to short stories, novels have the luxury of exploring multiple conflicts throughout their narratives. These conflicts can be both internal and external, involving the protagonist, secondary characters, and the environment. This complexity of conflict allows for deeper character development and enables readers to form stronger connections with the characters.

An example of this can be seen in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” where conflicts arise around societal expectations, romantic relationships, and individual growth.

Conflict in Film

Filmmakers use conflict to create visual and emotional experiences that captivate their audience. Similar to novels, movies can explore multiple conflicts, incorporating subplots and secondary characters to create a richer narrative.

One excellent example is the film, “Inception,” where conflicts rage at multiple levels: within individual characters, between characters, and between the characters and their physical and mental environments.

Each narrative form handles conflict differently, tailoring it to the unique strengths and constraints of the medium to create captivating and relatable stories.

Avoiding Boring and Predictable Conflicts

As storytellers, it is crucial for us to keep our audiences captivated and immerse them in the alluring world of our narrative. Predictable and dull disputes can turn readers off, making them lose interest in your carefully crafted narrative. To truly captivate your audience, you need gripping conflicts with unexpected twists and turns.

Raise the Stakes

One way to maintain an audience’s interest is by raising the stakes or increasing the consequences of the protagonist’s actions. This can be achieved by:

  • Putting loved ones in danger.
  • Threatening the character’s core beliefs.
  • Jeopardizing their ultimate goal.

By doing this, the protagonist’s choices become more emotionally charged and force the audience to consider what they would do in a similar situation.

Use Unexpected Obstacles

Introducing unexpected obstacles can keep a story from feeling too comfortable or formulaic. These surprising twists give the protagonist new challenges to overcome and provide readers with exciting turns of events.

Some ways to introduce unexpected obstacles include:

  1. Presenting unforeseen complications.
  2. Adding a new, more powerful antagonist.
  3. Having the protagonist fail at a critical moment.
  4. Altering the environment where the conflict takes place.

These elements add depth to the story and keep the audience guessing about what could happen next.

Surprise the Reader

To truly engage an audience, a story should occasionally defy expectations and subvert established tropes. By surprising your readers, you make the story feel fresh and unpredictable, increasing their investment in the events unfolding.

Some methods to surprise readers include:

  • Introducing unexpected plot twists.
  • Revealing hidden information about characters.
  • Exploring unforeseen consequences.
  • Challenging traditional roles and stereotypes.

To make these surprises more effective, it’s essential to maintain a balance between surprising the reader and staying true to the story’s established tone and framework, ensuring the twists remain plausible and engaging.

Common Pitfalls in Creating Conflict

When crafting engaging stories, conflict plays an essential role in driving the narrative forward and maintaining reader interest. However, authors can sometimes fall into common pitfalls that may negatively affect the effectiveness of conflict in their stories. These pitfalls can dilute the overall impact of the plot and lead to underwhelming storytelling.

Overusing Conflict

In an attempt to maintain high stakes and tension, some writers might overuse conflict, leading to plot fatigue for the reader. Too much conflict can make the story feel forced and can lessen the impact of significant events.

Readers may become disinterested if they are unable to emotionally connect with characters due to excessive adversities. It is crucial for authors to strike a balance between compelling conflicts and moments of respite, allowing readers to process and reflect on the events of the story.

Underdeveloped Antagonists

An underdeveloped antagonist can weaken the central conflict of a story. A well-rounded antagonist has motives, goals, and a personal backstory that makes them engaging and believable.

When an antagonist is lacking depth, their actions can seem contrived or serve only as a plot device. To create a compelling conflict, it is essential for writers to ensure their antagonist is as developed and three-dimensional as the protagonist.

Repetitive or Predictable Obstacles

Another pitfall authors should avoid is presenting repetitive or predictable obstacles in their stories. When readers can anticipate the outcome of every hurdle that characters face, the suspense and intrigue are diminished.

Unique and varied challenges can keep readers engaged, making each obstacle meaningful and memorable. Authors should strive to keep readers guessing and provide unexpected twists and turns that defy expectations.

Examples of Conflicts in Famous Stories

Without the power of conflict, the world’s most famous stories might have never resonated with the hearts and minds of their audiences. From the earliest myths to contemporary novels, conflicts have driven action, emphasized human emotions, and imparted life lessons.

Let’s take a look at enchanting examples of various conflicts in literature that have captivated readers and left an indelible mark on the world of storytelling.


In literature, conflict is often central to the characters’ development and growth. Here are a few examples of conflicts from well-known books:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Racial injustice and moral growth are major conflicts presented in this novel as Atticus Finch defends a black man wrongfully accused of rape.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, faces an internal struggle with the transition from childhood innocence to adulthood.
  • 1984 by George Orwell – This dystopian classic deals with the conflict between the oppressive government and the protagonists’ fight for truth, freedom, and individuality.


Movies often feature captivating conflicts that enthrall viewers. Here are some examples from notable films:

  • Star Wars – The main conflict is the battle between the Rebel Alliance and the evil Galactic Empire, symbolizing the fight between good and evil.
  • The Godfather – This epic crime drama centers on the power struggle within a mafia family and the conflicts arising from loyalty, betrayal, and ambition.
  • The Lion King – The classic Disney movie showcases the conflict between Simba, the rightful heir to the throne, and his uncle Scar, who seeks to usurp power.

Short Stories

Short stories often convey powerful conflicts within a confined narrative structure. Here are a few examples:

  • The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant – The protagonist, Madame Loisel, faces a conflict between her desires for wealth and social status and the reality of her humble life.
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell – The main conflict is a life-and-death struggle between the protagonist, Rainsford, and his captor, the twisted General Zaroff.
  • A&P by John Updike – The protagonist, Sammy, experiences conflict as he grapples with his dissatisfaction with his job and his desire for a better life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a story have more than one conflict?

Absolutely! A story can have multiple conflicts that are either interwoven or independent. These conflicts can involve different characters or be faced by a single character simultaneously. Including multiple conflicts in a story can add depth and complexity to the narrative, creating a richer and more engaging experience for the reader.

Can a story be successful without any conflict?

While it is theoretically possible for a story to exist without conflict, it would likely lack the tension and engagement that keeps readers invested. Conflict is essential to moving the story forward, giving the characters stakes, and building an emotional connection with the audience. A story without conflict could feel stagnant, uneventful, or lacking depth.

Why is it essential to balance conflict and resolution in stories?

Balancing conflict and resolution is critical in stories because it maintains tension and pacing. Too much conflict can overwhelm the reader, while too little can make the story feel flat and uninteresting.

With the right balance, writers can create a compelling narrative that engages readers and makes them emotionally invested in the characters and their journey. The resolution provides a sense of closure and satisfaction. It gives the reader a chance to reflect on the themes and messages of the story.

How can the setting contribute to conflict in a story?

Setting can play a significant role in creating conflict in a story. It can create external conflict by presenting characters with environmental challenges or reinforce existing conflict by reflecting a character’s internal struggles. A well-crafted setting can help establish the story’s mood, tone, and atmosphere, increase tension, and create additional layers of complexity through which characters must navigate.

Can the resolution of one conflict lead to the creation of another in a story?

Yes, the resolution of one conflict can actually lead to the creation of another conflict in a story. This can be the case when the consequences of resolving a conflict create new challenges or complications for the characters to overcome. This approach can add depth and complexity to the narrative, allowing readers to participate in the ongoing struggles and development of the characters.

How can writers balance conflicts between multiple protagonists in a story?

Balancing the conflicts of multiple protagonists can be achieved by ensuring that each character has distinct goals, motivations, and challenges to overcome. Writers should give each protagonist a unique voice and perspective so that readers can engage with each character’s individual journey.

It is also essential to link the protagonists’ conflicts together and make connections between their stories that highlight common themes or lessons. This approach can lead to a rich and complex story that engages readers and lets them share the struggles of the various protagonists.

Can conflicts be resolved without a clear winner or loser?

Yes, conflicts can be resolved without a clear winner or loser, resulting in a more nuanced and realistic portrayal of the characters and their struggles.

In some cases, conflicts can be resolved through compromise, negotiation, or mutual understanding, reflecting the complexity of human relationships and the challenges of dealing with differing perspectives. Such resolutions can provide valuable insights into the growth and development of characters as well as the story’s themes and messages.


Conflicts enable characters to develop, grow, and achieve meaningful goals. They provide opportunities for change, internal or external, that ultimately enrich the story and contribute to its lasting impact.

Conflict in stories also helps to reveal and explore various human experiences and emotions. It delves into the complexities of the human condition and encourages readers to empathize with the characters as they face challenges and struggles. This emotional connectivity adds to the depth and resonance of the story.

Furthermore, conflicts contribute to the story structure, facilitating the unfolding of interesting plot twists and unexpected turns. This heightens the reader’s curiosity and interest, providing a more immersive experience. It is through the adequate use of conflict that storytellers can craft captivating and memorable tales that resonate with their audience.

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Bea is an editor and writer with a passion for literature and self-improvement. Her ability to combine these two interests enables her to write informative and thought-provoking articles that positively impact society. She enjoys reading stories and listening to music in her spare time.