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How to Master Internal and External Conflict in Your Writing


Literary Terms: Internal Conflict and External Conflict




If you are a writer or a reader, you probably know that literary terms are words or phrases that describe different aspects of literature. Literary terms help us analyze, interpret, and appreciate various forms of literary works, such as novels, poems, plays, and short stories. Literary terms can also help us improve our own writing skills by giving us tools and techniques to craft compelling stories.




literary terms internal conflict and external conflict


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One of the most important literary terms that every writer and reader should know is conflict. Conflict is the struggle or opposition between two or more forces in a story. Conflict creates tension, suspense, and interest in a story. It also drives the plot forward and motivates the characters to act and change.


There are two main types of conflict in literature: internal conflict and external conflict. In this article, we will explore what these terms mean, how they differ from each other, and how to use them effectively in your writing.


What is Internal Conflict?




Internal conflict is the struggle that occurs within a character's mind or heart. It is the conflict between a character's thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, desires, or goals. Internal conflict often involves a moral dilemma or a personal challenge that the character has to overcome.


For example, in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, the protagonist Hamlet faces an internal conflict between his duty to avenge his father's murder and his hesitation to kill his uncle Claudius, who is now the king and his stepfather. Hamlet's internal conflict is expressed through his famous soliloquy "To be or not to be", where he contemplates whether it is better to live or die, to act or not to act.


Another example of internal conflict is in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, where the protagonist Holden Caulfield struggles with his alienation from society and his desire to protect his innocence. Holden's internal conflict is manifested through his cynical attitude, his rebellious behavior, and his constant search for authenticity and meaning.


Types of Internal Conflict




There are three common types of internal conflict that can occur in literature:


  • Man vs. Self: This is the most common type of internal conflict, where a character faces a problem within himself or herself. This can be a psychological problem, such as fear, guilt, anger, or insecurity; or an emotional problem, such as love, hate, jealousy, or grief; or a moral problem, such as right or wrong, good or evil.



  • Man vs. Society: This is where a character faces a problem with the norms, values, rules, or expectations of the society he or she lives in. This can be a social problem, such as racism, sexism, classism, or oppression; or a cultural problem, such as religion, tradition, or identity.



  • Man vs. Nature: This is where a character faces a problem with the natural forces or elements of the world. This can be a physical problem, such as hunger, thirst, cold, or disease; or an environmental problem, such as weather, climate, or natural disasters.



How to Create Internal Conflict in Your Writing




Internal conflict is essential for creating complex and realistic characters that readers can relate to and care about. Here are some tips on how to create internal conflict in your writing:


  • Know your character: To create internal conflict, you need to know your character well. You need to know their personality, their background, their motivations, their goals, their flaws, and their strengths. You need to know what they want and what they fear, what they value and what they despise, what they believe and what they doubt.



  • Create a dilemma: To create internal conflict, you need to put your character in a situation where they have to make a difficult choice or face a challenging obstacle. You need to create a dilemma that tests their morals, their emotions, their beliefs, or their desires. You need to make them question themselves and their actions.



  • Show the consequences: To create internal conflict, you need to show the consequences of your character's choices or actions. You need to show how their internal conflict affects their external situation, their relationships, their outcomes, and their growth. You need to show how their internal conflict changes them for better or worse.



What is External Conflict?




External conflict is the struggle that occurs between a character and an outside force. It is the conflict between a character and another character, a group of characters, a machine, a supernatural entity, or a force of nature. External conflict often involves a physical or verbal confrontation or a competition or rivalry.


For example, in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen faces an external conflict between her and the Capitol, the oppressive government that forces her and other children to participate in a deadly game for entertainment. Katniss' external conflict is shown through her actions of survival, rebellion, and resistance.


Another example of external conflict is in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where the protagonist Frodo Baggins faces an external conflict between him and the Dark Lord Sauron, who seeks to destroy the world with his evil power. Frodo's external conflict is shown through his journey to destroy the One Ring, the source of Sauron's power.


Types of External Conflict




There are four common types of external conflict that can occur in literature:


  • Man vs. Man: This is the most common type of external conflict, where a character faces a problem with another character or a group of characters. This can be an antagonist, such as a villain, an enemy, or a rival; or a protagonist, such as a friend, a family member, or a lover.



  • Man vs. Machine: This is where a character faces a problem with a machine or a technology that threatens or challenges them. This can be a robot, a computer, a weapon, or any other device that has artificial intelligence or mechanical power.



  • Man vs. Supernatural: This is where a character faces a problem with a supernatural force or entity that defies the laws of nature or reality. This can be a ghost, a vampire, a werewolf, a zombie, an alien, a god, or any other creature or being that has magical or paranormal abilities or origins.



  • Man vs. Nature: This is where a character faces a problem with the natural forces or elements of the world. This can be the same as man vs. nature internal conflict (see above), but in this case the natural forces are external and beyond the character's control.



How to Create External Conflict in Your Writing




External conflict is essential for creating exciting and thrilling stories that readers can enjoy and root for. Here are some tips on how to create external conflict in your writing:


  • Know your plot: To create external conflict, you need to know your plot well. You need to know the main events and actions that drive your story forward. You need to know the stakes and the risks involved in your story. You need to know what your character wants and what stands in their way.



resources, their courage, or their willpower.


  • Show the conflict: To create external conflict, you need to show the conflict between your character and the obstacle or the opposition. You need to show how your character reacts and responds to the conflict. You need to show how the conflict escalates and intensifies throughout the story. You need to show how the conflict leads to a climax and a resolution.



How to Use Internal and External Conflict Together




Internal and external conflict are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often work together to create a more complex and compelling story. By using both types of conflict in your writing, you can achieve the following benefits:


  • Create depth and dimension: By using both internal and external conflict, you can create depth and dimension in your characters and your plot. You can show different sides and layers of your characters, their motivations, their emotions, their struggles, and their growth. You can also show different aspects and angles of your plot, its themes, its messages, its twists, and its outcomes.



  • Create contrast and balance: By using both internal and external conflict, you can create contrast and balance in your story. You can show how your characters' internal conflicts affect their external conflicts, and vice versa. You can also show how your characters' internal and external conflicts complement or contradict each other. You can use contrast and balance to create irony, humor, drama, or suspense in your story.



  • Create interest and engagement: By using both internal and external conflict, you can create interest and engagement in your readers. You can make your readers curious about how your characters will overcome their internal and external conflicts. You can also make your readers empathize with your characters and root for them to succeed. You can use interest and engagement to keep your readers hooked and invested in your story.



How to Balance Internal and External Conflict in Your Story




While using both internal and external conflict in your writing is beneficial, it is also important to balance them properly. If you use too much or too little of either type of conflict, you might risk losing your readers' attention or satisfaction. Here are some tips on how to balance internal and external conflict in your story:


  • Know your genre: Different genres have different expectations and conventions when it comes to internal and external conflict. For example, action-adventure stories tend to focus more on external conflict, while romance stories tend to focus more on internal conflict. Know your genre and what kind of conflicts your readers expect from it.



  • Know your audience: Different audiences have different preferences and tastes when it comes to internal and external conflict. For example, younger readers might enjoy more external conflict, while older readers might enjoy more internal conflict. Know your audience and what kind of conflicts they enjoy reading.



  • Know your purpose: Different purposes have different implications when it comes to internal and external conflict. For example, if you want to entertain your readers, you might use more external conflict; if you want to educate or inspire your readers, you might use more internal conflict. Know your purpose and what kind of conflicts serve it best.



Tips and Tricks for Creating Dynamic and Engaging Conflicts




Here are some tips and tricks for creating dynamic and engaging conflicts in your writing:


  • Make them personal: The best conflicts are those that are personal to your characters. They should relate to their goals, their values, their fears, or their flaws. They should also have personal stakes that matter to them.



  • Make them complex: The best conflicts are those that are complex and multifaceted. They should have multiple layers, dimensions, causes, or effects. They should also have multiple perspectives, opinions, or solutions.



  • Make them realistic: The best conflicts are those that are realistic and believable. They should follow the logic and rules of your story world. They should also reflect the reality and challenges of human nature.



  • Make them surprising: The best conflicts are those that are surprising and unexpected. They should subvert the clichés or stereotypes of your genre or topic. They should also challenge the assumptions or expectations of your characters or readers.



Conclusion




In conclusion, internal and external conflict are two important literary terms that every writer and reader should know. They are the struggle or opposition between two or more forces in a story. Internal conflict is the struggle that occurs within a character's mind or heart, while external conflict is the struggle that occurs between a character and an outside force. Both types of conflict can create tension, suspense, and interest in a story. They can also drive the plot forward and motivate the characters to act and change.


By using both internal and external conflict in your writing, you can create depth and dimension, contrast and balance, and interest and engagement in your story. You can also create complex and realistic characters and exciting and thrilling plots that readers can relate to and enjoy. However, you should also balance them properly according to your genre, your audience, and your purpose. You should also use some tips and tricks to create dynamic and engaging conflicts that are personal, complex, realistic, and surprising.


We hope this article has helped you understand the literary terms internal conflict and external conflict better. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about internal and external conflict:


  • Q: What is the difference between internal and external conflict?



  • A: Internal conflict is the struggle that occurs within a character's mind or heart, while external conflict is the struggle that occurs between a character and an outside force.



  • Q: What are some examples of internal and external conflict?



  • A: Some examples of internal conflict are Hamlet's dilemma between avenging his father's murder or not, Holden Caulfield's struggle with his alienation from society, or Katniss Everdeen's moral dilemma between killing or sparing her opponents. Some examples of external conflict are Harry Potter's fight against Lord Voldemort, Frodo Baggins' journey to destroy the One Ring, or Sherlock Holmes' rivalry with Professor Moriarty.



  • Q: How do I create internal and external conflict in my writing?



  • A: To create internal conflict, you need to know your character well, create a dilemma for them, and show the consequences of their choices or actions. To create external conflict, you need to know your plot well, create an obstacle for your character, and show the conflict between them and the obstacle.



  • Q: How do I balance internal and external conflict in my story?



  • A: To balance internal and external conflict in your story, you need to know your genre, your audience, and your purpose. Different genres have different expectations and conventions when it comes to internal and external conflict. Different audiences have different preferences and tastes when it comes to internal and external conflict. Different purposes have different implications when it comes to internal and external conflict.



  • Q: How do I make my conflicts dynamic and engaging?



  • A: To make your conflicts dynamic and engaging, you need to make them personal, complex, realistic, and surprising. Personal conflicts are those that relate to your characters' goals, values, fears, or flaws. Complex conflicts are those that have multiple layers, dimensions, causes, or effects. Realistic conflicts are those that follow the logic and rules of your story world. Surprising conflicts are those that subvert the clichés or stereotypes of your genre or topic.



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