Conflict with other characters

A major source of conflict in stories—and our lives—is other people.

  • People fight over tangible things such as scarce resources or precious luxuries.
  • And people fight over intangible things such as freedom or control.

For example:

  • The locals want their land; the invaders want it too. They can't both have it—so who wins?
  • A Pakistani girl wants the freedom to date her American boyfriend; her parents want to control her arranged marriage to a stranger in Pakistan. They can't have both—so who wins? 

When we say conflict with other 'people', we really mean anything or anyone that could be considered a 'character'—they could be animals, aliens, robots, organisations, or sentient clouds of gas.

Conflict requires sustained opposition, which means conflict between two characters comes from a sustained relationship. For example:

  • A specific fight with a shark is not conflict; it's a confrontation. 
  • However, a sustained hunt over hours, days, or months, in which the shark terrorises locals while hunters try to catch it—that's conflict.

Notice that the characters don't need to know each other personally to have a relationship. They could be complete strangers, or know each other only by reputation—the conflict alone can bind them into a relationship.

Let's read and write a couple of examples.