How to Create Interesting Story Conflict

How to Make Interesting Story Conflict

There are many people who ask how to create an interesting story conflict in writing a novel or short story. This is actually a classic question, but some writers still feel stuck dealing with it. For this reason, this article will talk about it.

Why Every Writer Must Create Interesting Story Conflict?

Interesting Story Conflict

Conflict is something that is very important in story writing, without conflict the story will be very flat, uninteresting and boring. Any writer knows that the more interesting the conflict they present, the better.

But the important question then is; how to build an interesting conflict in the story? Are there examples of interesting storylines that can be used as a reference for writing conflicts?

Before advancing to a further point, this is two reasons why conflict is needed in story writing;

1.     Giving Goals in the Story

The conflict conveyed at the beginning of the story will become a direction, purpose, and movement of the story you write.

Conflict becomes a line that can be the destination for the story to move. Without conflict, the story will only be like foam in the middle of a wave, moving but not sure of direction.

2.     Helps Develop Character

By challenging the protagonist to resolve conflicts, you have paved the way for him to show his true abilities, emotions, qualities and character. And it always works to make it better.

Types of Conflict in Story Writing

Besides having these two goals, the conflicts in the story also consist of various kinds. The 6 most common types of conflict in writing novels, short stories or other stories are as follows;

  1. The protagonist fights himself.
  2. The protagonist against the antagonist.
  3. The protagonist against society.
  4. The protagonist fights the supernatural world.
  5. The protagonist fights technology.
  6. The protagonist against nature.

9 Tips How to Create Interesting Story Conflict

There are at least 9 ways that you can use to create interesting, good and compelling conflicts in writing a novel or short story.

Let’s start with the first.

1. Decide What Kind of Conflict the Story Needs

Interesting Story Conflict

The most basic way to create an interesting conflict in a story is to determine what type of conflict you need.

If you write a novel about teenagers, you will probably get a lot of references to the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist or character vs character. The world of teenagers which is full of explosions, curiosity, rebellion, will provide a wide space for presenting this type of conflict.

But of course it’s not limited there.

You can also build the protagonist’s conflict against himself. This may involve the search for identity and such.

2. Decide What the Character Wants and Put Obstacles in Front of him

Conflict is formed because there is an obstacle, a barrier between the main character (protagonist) and the goal he wants to achieve. In writing fiction, the most basic way is to understand the existence of these points.

Conflict must always be something that is important to the protagonist.

You can make the protagonist’s goal so significant to him. This can be improved by making these goals more personal so that the conflict in the story increases.

Don’t let your protagonist walk towards his goal without conflict. Conflict is what makes story characters grow, develop, and enter into the rational feelings of the readers.

So once again, you can create a novel conflict by providing obstacles in the path of the protagonist to reach his goal.

3. Create Contradictory Characters

This is not just about protagonists or antagonists, or not just about good characters and bad characters. Creating opposite characters here means more than just that.

Imagine someone you’ve had problems with, or someone whose qualities you don’t like.

They don’t have to be mean, cruel, rude, sneaky or really bad. But you can imagine various other characteristics of the antithesis to make the conflict more interesting.

Some character traits that you can consider, for example, are;

  • Generous versus stingy
  • Introverts versus extroverts
  • Care versus indifference

4. Create a Great Antagonist

Interesting Story Conflict

How to make an interesting storyline using the next conflict is to make the antagonist a strong figure and not easily defeated. Stop framing first if the antagonist is always evil, rude and has no manners. Instead, build the characteristics of an attractive, strong or even charismatic antagonist.

To produce an interesting conflict, the antagonist must be as strong as the protagonist, or even stronger. In this way, there will be a very serious effort for the protagonist to defeat the antagonist who becomes his opponent.

In classic stories you can see how the strength of the antagonist is reflected in his physique, strength, and power. Well, you can add to this by further expanding what the antagonist has.

Aren’t there many evil characters who are smart, intelligent, gentle, charming and very charismatic, right?

The point is; the stronger and more powerful the antagonist, the greater the main character’s efforts to defeat him.

And that means the story conflict will be more interesting.

5. Increase Conflict Throughout The Story

Keep the conflict in the middle of the story to make it more interesting. Make the protagonist increasingly cornered and it seems increasingly difficult to achieve his goals.

This is an open secret as a way to create an interesting storyline, namely by making the conflicts faced by the protagonist seem endless. If one problem has been successfully solved, continue with another problem that makes it seem like it is really in a difficult condition.

Maintain strong story tension with ever-increasing conflict issues.

The easiest way is to also increase the bet that must be taken by the protagonist to complete it.

For example like this;

At the beginning of the story, the protagonist is challenged to get out of his comfort zone. In the middle of the story he even has to lose the people he loves, his job, his wealth. Towards the end you can add tension to the story by creating story characters who are on the verge of being jailed, killed or tricked.

Again, increase the tension of the story while keeping your focus on the ending and conclusion.

6. Use Sub Plots to Increase Conflict

If you are writing a novel about friendship, youth or contemporary stories, for example, you can be creative by adding conflicts to existing conflicts.

How does that mean?

Suppose you make besides the main conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist, you also create conflict between the tritagonist characters.

Like if your hero is a teenager who is looking for identity and is involved with a street gang. Then you can make sub plots by making strong competition between one street gang and another.

Or try to remember the imaginary figure Gandalf who was in conflict with Saruman and JRR Tolkien’s monumental work; The Lord of the Rings.

That is one example of conflict in fiction which is included in the category of sub-plot conflict.

7. Increase the Stakes for the Protagonist

Interesting Story Conflict

As before, make the protagonist increasingly on the edge to quickly reach his goal.

Make something missing from the protagonist, such as losing power, losing loved ones, or losing trust and so on. Or you can also increase the stakes by having other characters pursue the same goal that the protagonist wants to achieve.

I will give you an example of the second type.

In the novel Merapi Barat Daya, the Tatras characters don’t just have to fight tooth and nail to reach the top of the South Cliff of Mount Merapi. In the middle of the story, another character is also aiming for a similar goal. If Tatras doesn’t act immediately, he will lose what he has long aspired for.

So that’s the manifestation, a conflict is increased the stakes by giving the effect of limited time, manpower, and other resources.

8. Think of Story Conflicts Like a Movie

There’s nothing wrong with projecting the conflict in your story through a more realistic visual image. So, when you write conflicts in a novel or short story, try to visualize the conflicts that exist in your own mind.

What visual elements make the conflict even more intense?

Do you need a sunset setting with a red sunset like the saga? Or do you need an antagonist weapon that is very hard to beat like Thanos’s?

Or what?

Think about it by visualizing the conflict like a movie in your mind.

9. Read Other Fictional Works

The last way that is highly recommended for you to do when creating story conflicts in novels is to read other writers’ fiction.

Watch how they build conflict, what they say, how they do it, and so on.

Besides being your reference for building better stories, reading other people’s fiction also gives you broader insights to transform stories into something more real in terms of conflicts and problems.


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Anton Wan Bong

I am Indonesian book writer, content writer, ghost writer, copywriters and also an email marketer. I have written 23 books, fiction and non-fiction, and thousands of articles since mid-2018 until now.

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