Writing Corner: Conflict

This is the first of a weekly series called Writing Corner. It is a place where young writers can hopefully learn things that will help their own writing. There are many different opinions about how to write well, but I will share what I have learned from my own writing experience, from 100-word stories to 100,000-word novels.

Conflict

The problem in a story: the thing that the people in the story needs to fix or get.

This is the first topic I will talk about since it is one of the things that makes a story a story.

Examples of Conflict

Charlotte’s Web: The farmer is going to kill Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider needs to save him.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: The caterpillar is hungry and wants to find food.

Harry Potter books: There are 7 books here so there are many, many conflicts, but the biggest one is that Voldemort is trying to kill Harry and take over the world and Harry has to stop him.

Green Eggs and Ham: Sam-I-am wants his friend to eat green eggs and ham but his friend says he does not like them.

The Hunger Games: Katniss is trying not to die.

As you can see, the conflict is very different since it depends on the kind of story you are writing but each of these stories has some problem the characters have to fix or something they want to get. In these examples, it could be anything from being hungry and looking for food to trying not to die. The conflict will also depend on who will be reading your story.

Do you need conflict in a story?

Real life is different than a story because we do not like bad things to happen in real life. If we have a perfect day where everything goes right, this is great! However, in a story, this is not very interesting to read about. A story is more interesting if there is a problem that the people in the story need to fix.

Let me give you an example:

        Jamil woke up. The sun was shining and he felt good. He got ready for school and walked outside where his friend Fatimah was waiting. They walked the ten minutes to the school. The first class was math. Jamil was great at math. He knew every answer the teacher asked. In the afternoon, the class had a field trip. They went to a museum and learned all about the history of their town. When he went home, Jamil did his homework and read a little of his new book before bed. It had been a good day.

This is a story in the sense that it is telling about Jamil’s day, but it is not a very interesting story. Everything goes well for Jamil. All we know about him is that he is good at math and he has a friend and a new book.

We could fix this by giving Jamil a problem. That sounds mean, but it makes for a better story. Some examples:

  • He is fighting with his friend Fatimah
  • He is terrible at math and is nervous about a test that day
  • He gets lost on the field trip

There are many others we could use, but any of these would make this a better story. We can learn what Jamil would do in that situation and learn a bit more about him as a person, which makes it more interesting to read.                                                                                                

Now it’s your turn

  1. Whenever you read a story, watch a TV show or watch a movie, ask yourself what the conflict is: what is the problem in the story or the goal that the people have? Every one of these will have at least one big one and maybe many smaller ones too.
  2. Look at stories that you have written. What is the conflict in them? Is there a way you could make it better or make it more interesting?

If you have any questions about writing or other topics you want me to talk about in Writing Corner, just send me an email at greenwalledtreehouse@gmail.com.

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