This post is the second part to my reflection on the short story. Through these reflections I’ll be talking about the elements that make up a story whether it be a short story or a novel. Its takes all of these elements to make a story work. I’ll touch on each one in regard as how I become more familiar with it and how I came to understand it and use it. This post will be about Conflict.
Each story must have a conflict that needs to be overcome by your main character(s). If there isn’t a conflict then there isn’t a story.
So what is Conflict? It’s the struggle of your main character(s). There are four types of Conflict:
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Society
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Self
- Man vs. Supernatural
The first four are what I call the classic conflicts. It’s what I was taught in HS and in college. But as I’ve come along in my reading of conflicts I don’t see why we should discount the supernatural. After all there are many stories written by respected authors about the supernatural. So I add it here to my list.
To become more familiar with each conflict type I’ll give you some suggested reading.
Man vs. Man: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor.
Man vs. Society: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
Man vs. Nature: To Build a Fire by Jack London.
Man vs. Self: Yellow Wallpaper by Kate Chopin. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Man vs. Supernatural: The novel Dracula by Bram Stoker
For my own writing I have never written about nature and the obstacles she can throw at you. Nor have I explored man vs. society. I’ll leave that to more capable writers. For myself I love to explore the conflict of the supernatural and the conflict of the self. The supernatural gives me a way to explore both this and the self at once. If I have a character that doesn’t believe in such things it can cause an inner struggle for them to come to terms with as well as finding a way to overcome supernatural forces.
I love to explore the inner struggles of my characters. Mainly because their conflicts have been mine too. Writing about it gives me a safe place to explore all the emotions that come with the inner struggle. What kind of inner struggles you ask, or maybe you didn’t ask but I’m going to tell you anyway. Psychological struggle such as self-doubt, fear, shame, mental illness and addiction.
As for the supernatural conflicts I enjoy exploring, fate, the gods, superstitions, ghostly hauntings, and demonic entities. All those unnatural things that science can not explain. Things that shouldn’t be and yet there it is looking my character in the face.
Come back to for part 3.