See you next time!

That's it for this lesson. We covered a lot of territory, so let's take a moment to consolidate the concepts:

  • Conflict is a powerful element in narrative and story.
  • Conflict sits on a continuum with contrast at one end, and confrontation at the other.
    • Contrast represents natural sources of difference in the world.
    • These differences, when juxtaposed, can create friction and tension, which in turn can create conflict.
  • Conflict is the sustained struggle for dominance between opposing forces. 
    • Opposing forces can be characters, groups, or wider environmental and social systems.
  • Conflicts are meaningful only if characters care about the consequences.
    • Whatever characters stand to gain or lose in a conflict are called the stakes.
    • It's not the size of the stakes that are important; it's how much a character cares about them.
  • Conflict can emerge on multiple fronts, including relationship conflict, environmental conflict, and internal struggles.
  • Conflict can be expressed in moments of confrontation, which can include physical, verbal, and emotional struggles for dominance or resolution.
  • The resolution of a conflict often marks the end of a story. Resolutions can include:
    • competitive win/lose/draw situations
    • compromise and cooperation
    • personal growth, maturity, and learning
    • an impasse.

If you think about that continuum from contrast to confrontation, you'll find you have three starting points for developing any story:

  • You can start in the middle of a confrontation, and then figure out what caused it.
  • You can start with an overarching conflict, and then figure out who is who and how the opposing forces confront each other.
  • You can start by contrasting characters, places, and so on, and then see what conflict emerges.

When you're reading, stop occasionally and pay attention to the conflict in the story:

  • Is there any conflict?
  • Who or what are the opposing forces?
  • Why are they in conflict? What do they want? How do they contrast with each other?
  • What is at stake for each side? How do you know they care? Why do you care?
  • How does this conflict break into confrontation?
  • And when you get to the end, how is the conflict resolved?

You'll probably find that by examining the conflict in the story, you will dredge out all sorts of important ideas and observations, because conflict is kind of like the story's central nervous system.

Set a reminder to yourself to look for conflicts.

You'll easily find big conflicts in the media.

But also look for small conflicts among your family, friends, and community. (Remember, what makes a conflict interesting, ultimately, is how the characters feel about it.)

Ask yourself the same questions as if you were reading a story: 

  • What's the conflict?
  • Who are the opposing forces?
  • What do they want? How are they contrasting?
  • What's at stake for each side?
  • Where is the confrontation?
  • How is this ever resolved?

Where did the snippets come from?

Cover of The Third Day, the Frost

The Third Day, the Frost, by John Marsden

Third in the Tomorrow War series, which is one of the greatest action-adventure war stories ever. A group of teenagers in rural Australia become insurgents against an invading army.

Cover of Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars, by Aieesha Said

The story of an American Pakistani girl whose parents catch her with an American boyfriend and then take her to Pakistan where they force her to a marry a complete stranger.

Cover of Across The Nightingale Floor

Across the Nightingale Floor, by Lian Hearn

First book in a stunning fantasy epic set in an alternately-imagined feudal Japan. Takeo, the orphaned member of a persecuted village community, is mentored by a sympathetic lord to become a powerful assassin.

Cover of Kids of Kabul

Kids of Kabul, by Deborah Ellis

Novels like The Third Day, the Frost tell stories about heroic teenagers fighting invading armies, blowing up planes and boats, and generally kicking ass—but they're fantasies. What's it like to really grow up in a war zone? Kids of Kabul captures accounts from children in Afghanistan in the years after the retreat of the Taliban—stories of fear, frustration, courage, urgency, and hope.

Cover of Looks Like Daylight

Looks Like Daylight, by Deborah Ellis

Frank and honest interviews with Indigenous children and teens in North America and Canada, including many who have lived in residential schools and foster care. Stories of struggle, hope, and trying to find a place in the world.

Cover of Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

An intricate and layered story of a teenage girl and her father both struggling to come to terms with her mother's departure from their lives, including fighting over new homes and new relationships.

Cover of Catching Teller Crow

Catching Teller Crow, by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

A dead girl returns as a ghost to help her grieving father solve a mystery involving a burned orphanage and an unidentified body. Published in the U.S. as The Things She's Seen.

Cover of Does my Head Look Big in This

Does My Head Look Big in This, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The only Muslim girl in a private school decides she wants to start wearing her hijab in public, and has to deal with everyone's reactions, including teachers, friends, and strangers—while also trying to win over a cute boy. 

Image of a group of young children boxing

That's it! See you next time! 👋

Trouble with Tribbles bar fight GIF from Star Trek