One of my favorite elements of storytelling, is conflict. In writing, there are five different types: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Technology. Years ago, when I first learned about literary conflict, there were only three types. However, times have changed, and Man vs Society and Man vs. Technology are now included.
Every story needs a conflict. Your character(s) need a goal, and something that tries to keep him (them) from achieving that goal. Think about Disney’s The Lion King. Simba’s goal is to become king, however his Uncle, Scar, tries to prevent this from happening by murdering his father and attempting to have Simba killed as well (I hope I haven’t spoiled this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, although if you haven’t seen it by now you must be under the age of five or something). All of my books are loaded with conflicts. The only one I have yet to conquer is Man vs. Technology, but I do have an idea for that. Below are examples of each conflict from my books (except Man vs. Technology: I’m going to borrow from Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream for that one).
Man vs. Man
People struggle against other people in many stories. This doesn’t mean the conflict is always physical. The conflict can be emotional. Take Our Lady of Righteous Rage, for instance. David never lays a hand on Amy, but he constantly belittles her and her dream of becoming a musician. If physical conflicts are your thing, Valentine is loaded with examples. While staying at the home for abused women, Val gets into a fight with the husband of one of the women. She also gets into a fight with Jacob, with one of Rafferty’s men…you get the picture.
Man vs. Nature
The best example I can immediately think of, is Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. It’s the story of a man who is shipwrecked and castaway and on a deserted island for twenty-eight years, and must learn to survive in a strange new wilderness. If you’ve never read this book, perhaps you’ve seen the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks. Similar story. Learning to build a fire, fighting off wild animals…learning how cruel nature can be…it’s one of the best forms of conflict, in my opinion. I also recommend The Edge with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.
Man vs. Society
Society wants a woman to stay in a woman’s place. Literally ALL of my books cover this type of conflict! The women in the Valentine series are the most powerful members of the Syndicate (network of criminals). In Our Lady, Amy encourages all of her fans to pursue their dreams, no matter what their gender.
Man vs. Self
I’m going to turn to Fortune’s Wing Second Flight for this one. In the fourth chapter, Fortune and his friends find themselves surrounded by a mist that digs into their minds and uses their thoughts and fears against them. Later, you learn that there are no monsters or zombies chasing them, but in their minds, the whole things is very real.
Man vs. Technology
Yes, I could have gone with The Matrix on this one, but Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is one of my favorite science fiction stories. Human civilization no longer exists, as three countries involved in a world war have created three super computers, to control the war. These countries are China, Russia and the US (sounds like modern times, eh?). However, one of the computers becomes self-aware, absorbs the other two, and basically destroys mankind. The only remaining humans are four men and one woman. The computer, referred to as AM, spends all of its time torturing the five humans; making them suffer, but not allowing them to die. I don’t want to give any more of the plat away, but if you’ve never read this story, YOU MUST READ IT!! It’s a great example of Man vs. Technology.
If there’s a form of conflict you’ve never used in your writing before, you may want to give it a try. If you can somehow manage to work all five forms into ONE of your works, kudos to you!
Young Kelly McCormick
Young Kelly McCormick is now available on Amazon! This is my 23rd book, and I hope everyone enjoys it.
For anyone who isn’t already aware, Woolaston Entertainment is relocating to Virginia. During this moving process, I may not be able to post the Monday Blog. However, I will update the site and the blog as soon as I possibly can.