"How dare you!?"

Fights aren't only physical; they can also be verbal and emotional.

Here's a fight with a girl and her boyfriend on one side, and her parents on the other:

For a moment no one speaks. Then I hear Saif's voice. "Can we talk?" He clears his throat and does his best to appear calm. "Outside? It might be a good idea if we all just go outside and talk about this."

My mother takes a step toward us, and only then do I realize how tightly I'm holding Saif's hand. With one fluid motion, she slaps my hand from his and grabs my wrist.

"Please," Saif says. "If we all could talk. Just for a second."

"Don't." She glares at him. "Don't you dare speak to me. Ever."

I look at my father. He's not really looking at me. More like through me.

My mother's grip is tighter now. She's pulling me off the dance floor. Toward the door. I look back at Saif. His face has gone pale. He walks toward me. I shake my head at him.

"Ami," I whisper, though choked sobs, "if you could just listen to us. If we could just step outside and talk for even five minutes and explain to you what's going on."

"I think the explanation is clear enough," she responds. "And now let me explain something to you, Naila. It's over."

Naila wants to stay dancing with Saif; her family want to take her home—and make sure she never sees him again.

While there's some physical confrontation—grabbing, slapping, pulling—it's more a struggle for power: freedom vs control. 

You can't have a verbal and emotional fight with zombies, so we'll use this as a chance to develop some character backstory in our Hong Kong story:

A couple of months ago Vincent had gotten into trouble for staying up all night playing Minecraft. "On a school night!" his mother had screamed.

"Mama," Vincent had yawned, "it's fine. I'm awake."

"If you fail your test today, you will be a beggar on the street!"

"It's fine, I know it all," he'd said, nodding off.

"Yes, you know it all! That's your problem! You're a lazy know-it-all!" His mother had wheeled on his father, who had been trying to sneak out the door without getting involved. "You need to punish him!" she'd shouted.

"Uh, he has to clean the toilet… for two weeks."

"Doing the maid's job is not a punishment!" His mother's eyes had narrowed. "I'm selling the computer."

"Mama, no!" Vincent had howled.

"You can buy a new one with your salary when you are a working adult!"

"No!!!" Vincent had felt like his heart was being ripped out.

His mother thought she had won that fight, but Vincent looked around the world now and all he saw was creepers and crafting. It was a lot more like Minecraft than school.

Now here's one in the taxidermy story:

Things came to a head when Dad—who shouldn't have been in my room in the first place—saw a tab for UT Austin on my laptop. He took the liberty to poke around and then we had it out in the kitchen.

"What are you thinking of, girl?" he said. "You don't need university, or debt, or all that driving. You have what you need right here."

"Daddy, I do not want to be stuffing animals for the rest of my life."

"And exactly what are you going to do? A degree in musical theater? Have you lost your mother-loving mind?"

"I don't expect you to understand!"

"Oh, I understand that girl has put a spell on you and made you think a whole load of deranged thoughts! I said she was bad news from the start!"

That's where it really went off the rails. Dad got in my face, pointing at me while he yelled; I slammed a box of macaroni on the counter so hard that noodles sprayed out.

"It's not about Charlie, it's not about you, it's about me! And my life!"

"Oh, it'll be about you, alright!" Dad yelled, not making any sense but being angry enough to scare me.

  • Think about the protagonist in your story world. What's something they might want?
  • Who could oppose that desire? Maybe someone who wants to control their behaviour?
  • How might that tension break into a confrontation?
  • Describe the fight, and be careful not to let it turn into a fist fight.
  • How does each side feel about each other as they fight? Try to find ways to express their emotions.
Describe a verbal and emotional fight.

We've described a physical fight, and a verbal and emotional fight.

But here's the thing: a fight is not really a conflict; it's more what we might call a confrontation.

What's the difference?