So You Want to Write a Novel- Part 4: Conflict

conflict - so you want to write a novel part 4

Took a little bit of a break yesterday, but we’re back today talking about what I think is the most important part of the puzzle to keep your story going and interesting. Conflict.

Truth be told, a story without some kind of conflict is no story at all. In fact it’s a snooze-fest for both the reader and the writer.

conflict- so you want to write a novel part 4Come on, you know you get a sick sense of pleasure when throwing terrible circumstances at your characters!

There needs to be conflict, whether it’s big or small in every single chapter of your novel.


  • It pushes the story forward.
  • It prevents characters from reaching their goal right away, and in some instances helps them get a little bit closer to achieving their goal.
  • It keeps the reader invested in your novel, wanting to know what is going to happen next. That emotional investment in what happens to the characters will ultimately keep your readers interested in your book.

So your characters can’t get what they want— not all the time!

Throw obstacles in their way left and right. What are some of the worst things that could happen to your characters in the book? Make them happen. Make your characters have to overcome it.

There are two kinds of conflict that your characters should face in every novel or story.

Internal Conflict-

  • This is based on your character’s personal issues, what they fear or what they desire.
  • Tied to the goal. It gives the plot and the character’s growth significance.

To be honest, internal conflict should be what is really standing in the way between your character and their goals.

You should also know why your character has this internal conflict. Is it tied into their motivation, flaws, back story.

External Conflict-

  • This is something beyond your character’s control: war, sickness, death, weather, etc.
  • This can keep the characters from one another, or put distance between them.
  • It can also keep your character from their goal, but in conjunction with their internal conflict.

One book series that beautifully balances both internal and external conflict is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

conflict - so you want to write a novel part 4The premise and setting literally ooze conflict, which is amazing and creates so much internal conflict for the characters. The external conflicts that Katniss Everdeen faces in the arena and after the games are over directly impact her internal conflict, goals, and motivation. In fact, The Hunger Games trilogy are great books to use while examining character as well.

Look at your favorite books, movies, and television shows. How do they tackle both internal and external conflict? Does the conflict help push the story forward? How can you use conflict in your own writing?

Tomorrow, we’re talking about world building. I hope to see you then. Happy writing!

See the rest of this series:

Part 1: Getting Ideas- Brainstorm

Part 2:  Audience, Genre, & Planning vs. Pantsing

Part 3: Characters

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