Conflict is the lifeblood of a captivating narrative. In the realm of storytelling, conflicts come in various forms, but the two primary ones are internal and external conflicts. To create a compelling story, it’s crucial for authors to grasp the interplay between these two kinds of conflict.

Internal Conflict: The Inner Struggle

Internal conflict, often known as a character’s inner turmoil, delves into the emotional and psychological battles within a character’s mind and heart. It explores their thoughts, fears, desires, and moral dilemmas, serving as the driving force behind personal growth and transformation.

Consider these examples from literature and film:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling): Harry’s internal conflict revolves around his identity as the “Chosen One” and the weight of responsibility it carries. This constant struggle with destiny and choice adds depth to his character.
  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald): Jay Gatsby’s internal conflict centers on his unrequited love for Daisy Buchanan. His lavish parties and wealth are his attempts to win her heart, revealing his internal turmoil and unattainable desires.
  • Black Swan (Directed by Darren Aronofsky): The film follows the internal conflict of the protagonist, Nina Sayers, as she battles her perfectionism and the pressure of performing the lead role in a ballet production. Her psychological struggle is central to the movie’s tension and suspense.

External Conflict: The Clash of Characters

External conflict showcases visible, tangible struggles between characters. This can take the form of physical fights, verbal disputes, or clashes of opposing goals and desires. When combined with internal conflict, it creates a well-rounded and immersive narrative.

Here are examples of external conflict from literature and film:

  • Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen): The classic novel’s external conflict mainly revolves around misunderstandings and prejudices between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Their verbal clashes and social differences add drama to the story.
  • The Dark Knight (Directed by Christopher Nolan): The conflict between Batman and the Joker is a compelling example of external conflict in film. The Joker’s chaotic and unpredictable actions create a tangible clash of opposing goals and ideologies.
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins): The entire premise of this dystopian series is built on external conflict. Katniss Everdeen’s battles in the Hunger Games arena and her defiance of the Capitol’s authority provide the external conflict that drives the plot.

Incorporating both internal and external conflict into your narrative is essential for a well-rounded and engaging story. Internal conflict adds depth to characterization, evokes emotion, and creates anticipation, while external conflict propels the plot, adds excitement, and tests the characters’ growth.

Most stories incorporate both types of conflict, with each playing off the other to create a richer, more emotionally engaging narrative. By having internal conflict manifest externally in how a character interacts with the world, or allowing the reader to see external conflict through the character’s internal lens, you can make your readers more invested in the story.

As you craft your next masterpiece, remember that the heart of your story lies in the struggles of your characters, both within themselves and with the world around them. Balancing these two types of conflict will elevate your writing and create a story that resonates with your readers, leaving a lasting impact. So, use the examples from literature and film as inspiration, and let the interplay between internal and external conflict breathe life into your narrative. Your goal is to create a story that’s unputdownable, and mastering this balance is a key step in achieving that.