What is Your Story’s Central Conflict?

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The central conflict is the driving force behind your story.

It drives the plot forward, and it acts as a key to understanding what you’re trying to say as the author.

You may have seen a version of this table in the past.


The conflict is what will drive your story, both for your reader and yourself.

The narrative should move the characters personally, deeply rooted, and something that will fight to the death over.

It should be something that will have an effect on for many years to come.

The Different Types of Conflict

There are names to the different conflicts that exist in literature. Here are some popular examples:

Type of ConflictGenreExample
Person vs. environmentThrilling adventureThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Person vs. personRomance, intrigueThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Person vs. selfPsychological angstThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Person vs. societySocial critiqueA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Person vs. paranormalGhosts, zombiesMacbeth by Shakespeare
Person vs. technologyFuturistic dystopiasThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

How you resolve your story’s central conflict is dependent on the genre you’re writing in.

For example, in a suspense thriller, the protagonist and antagonist must be motivated and capable of achieving their goals and thwarting the other.

You have to have a conflict that will give you a reason to tell the story that you will want to tell.

The conflict doesn’t always have to be an over-the-top, bombastic conflict.

The characters could be going through a minor encounter, but it could be enough to carry the story to the end.

4 questions to ask about your story’s central conflict

  1. What’s your story’s conflict right now?
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  3. Is that conflict working for you as the person writing the story?
  4. Is there something you can do that would change that conflict to something fresh?
  5. Is there any room for you to do that and have it make sense?

Let’s connect!

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