Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conflict Q&A 3 - EXTERNAL

One of the questions that I was asked over and over again when I said I was going to do a workshop on conflict was:

How do you define the difference between Internal and External conflict ?

As Susan said: I would love an idiot's guide to external and internal conflict

So today I'm going to define the first of those types of conflict:


EXTERNAL CONFLICT is what happens to your characters, the obstacles outside themselves which they have to overcome to get their happy-ever-after.

External conflict is also called PLOT.

EXTERNAL CONFLICT comes from the plot and circumstances or is created by other characters.

EXTERNAL conflict is the struggle between people over opposing goals. It is out in the open. It is visible to witnesses

EXTERNAL is SITUATIONAL – it arises from the place and the plot. It can create the SITUATION that forces the H&h together so they have to deal with emotional issues – eg snowed in together etc.

SITUATIONAL can work with the EMOTIONAL issue

SITUATIONAL can never substitute for EMOTIONAL

External Conflict can be

- visible - a wildfire, a villain

- Situational - a situation that will cause turmoil for your character - eg working with their former husband/lover

- should be tailor-made for your characters, no matter how big or how small, it should truly affect them in more than a passing way

- should be directly tied to the essence of your characters, perhaps stemming from and adding to their internal conflict.

To quote Trish Morey -

The external conflict brings your characters together (to solve a problem, deal with a crisis, resolve an issue. . . )

The internal conflict then drives them apart.

So more on internal conflict tomorrow

(c) Kate Walker 2010


Kerrin said...

Hey that's good, i never thought of external conflict as bringing the characters together! thanks for that!!

Lacey Devlin said...

I'd never made the conscious distinction of internal conflict driving characters apart and external conflict bring them together. Thanks Kate!

LindaC said...

This is fabulous and just what I needed to read right now. I can't wait for the entry about internal conflict.



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