13 October 2012


Here on To Paint a Picture with Words, we’ve covered Character, Structure, Plot, Theme and Settings.  Today, we’re going to look at another important element for your story which is  Conflict.

Why is conflict important?
Because without it, your story will be flat and won’t hold your reader’s interest for long.

There are two types of conflict.  Inner conflict and external conflict.
Inner conflict is your character’s personal struggle.  This can be many thing such as, self doubt, guilt, grief, or a dilemma facing your character.  For example, in the Fitzjohn Mystery Series, Detective Chief Inspector Fitzjohn deals with grief when his beloved wife Edith dies.  His job becomes his lifeline, but it’s under threat by his nemisis, Superintendent Grieg, who would like nothing better than to destroy Fitzjohn’s reputation and career.

External conflict is created by something your character needs or wants to resolve, but there are obstacles that have to be overcome.  Not only does your character have to deal with his/her inner conflict but also the external struggle.  For example, in The Celtic Dagger, James Wearing finds himself a prime suspect in his brother’s murder and feels the need to clear himself of suspicion.  That conflict compels James to act and pushes the story forward.

What effect will these conflicts have on your character and story?
In dramatising your character’s inner struggles, he/she will come to life on the page enabling your reader to care.  The same can be said with your character’s external struggle.  As he/she tries and fails, and tries again to reach the goal, your reader will be filled with anticipation, sitting on the edge of his or her seat until the very last page.  At least that is what we hope!


  1. Great advice again Jill! Conflict is one element we most want to avoid in our personal lives yet love to read about in a good book.

  2. Very true, Anna, especially when the story has a happy ending.