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Conflict In Storytelling

Updated on September 2, 2014


In creative writing, one of the main things that will make or break a story is the CONFLICT of the piece. Conflict is the basis for any situation in a story line. There are generally seven steps a writer can accomplish this: although these are tried and true methods to tell a story through the eyes of a WATCHER and therefore convey a conflict to the READER, these are only building blocks, or a foundation, to build upon. As all writers will find, the foundation of the work will either support the piece (the story) or it will crumble it.

  1. Exposition - This is background information. Background is considered anything that explains what the characters are all about. What has brought them to this point, what has gone on before, and on the setting of the story (background information). After many long years of searching, Archy finds Veronica enrolled in college. But his fears kept him from approaching her and asking why it all went wrong those many decades before. (What fears? What situation kept him from approaching? Background.)
  2. Inciting Force - This is the spark that starts the story and grabs the attention of the reader. For example: if you are writing a short story about a cop, the inciting force behind it could be in your opening (look at it like a book review; this is the analysis of the piece. ): Officer Jones was forced to shoot the young man coming out of the Easy Mart. This gives you the opportunity to go into the facts of why the officer had to shoot the subject. The spark!
  3. Rising Action - This is the complications or implications for the plot of the story. As Holmes would say, "The plot thickens." This is the part of the story that you get into to make the story line come alive with action, and that action moves the characters and events toward your conclusion.
  4. Crisis - This is the turning point in your story. This allows you to move your story in any direction you wish. Where you want it to go.
  5. Climax - This is the point in your tale that is the high point in the storytelling. Either emotionally or intellectually.
  6. Falling Action - This is the unraveling of the plot. This is where all of the elements for your story come together to lead to the ending. It is generally shorter than the rising action. Much shorter.
  7. Conclusion - This, of course, is the outcome of the story. This is where all of the background, exciting force, action, crisis, climax, and falling action come together to form a cohesive whole. What happened? Who did what? How did it end? DID it end? Did Archy ever confront Veronica? Did Officer Jones ever apologize for shooting the young man, or even acknowledge his wrong doing? Did they? I think you get the idea.

Major and Minor

When a writer starts any piece, they have to decide what each character will be, either a major, or minor part of the action. For every character is either a major character or minor character.

A major character is necessary to the plot of the story; they help to move your story to its ending. They are usually very Dynamic. He/she will grow and develop as the story moves. They will add dimension to the story line and to themselves as well.

Minor characters are like a supporting cast member in a movie. His/her role is usually to do something to move your story along, rather than to BE something that takes your story line to its conclusion. In many cases, a minor character will not make it to the conclusion of your piece. He/she is not necessarily a major factor in getting your story to reach it's end. You could call this your Watson of the piece. Holmes uses Watson to come to his conclusions, but he is not an integral part to get there. These characterizations are Static in nature, never growing or developing, you know from the beginning they will be what they are to the end.

Neither or Either

And with the above said, let me also say these are only suggestions when it comes to a character. Sometimes in a story line you will find the characters will actually come alive for you as you write them, and when this happens you may see they cannot make it to the end, although you had planned for them to. J.k Rowling came upon this in her Harry Potter books when she killed off what many thought was a major player in the game: A Professor Lupine. He was the professor for Harry in his third year in which he taught spell casting. You know, the werewolf. In a short interview she had with Harry himself (Daniel Radcliffe) Rowling freely admitted she had intended for Lupine to make it to the end. But she found for the story line to come to its ultimate conclusion, and show loss throughout the tale, which was the point of he books, in Deathly Hollows, she HAD to end one of the characters, and since Lupine was a father figure to Harry, she knew he had to die. That kind of twist at the end is only one of the many reasons Rowling's books have endured for over ten years in the hearts of children and adults alike. And this is one of many decisions you as a writer will have to make.

Round or Flat

All characters are either round or flat. And this does not refer to their weight in any way.

A round character is one which projects the illusion of reality. They are believable and whole. Each part of the character comes across as real and to the point. They are fully developed in background information as well as an inciting force of the story.

A flat character is not fully drawn on the page. They are seen and understood, and believable, but they do not fully capture one's attention. They do not necessarily have to go all the way to the end to make them come alive. Flat characters tend to be minor characterizations. Although they are a part of the story, they are only a minor part of the story line.


Remember these are only descriptive terms for your characters, not value judgments. If you keep your characters throughout your piece, generally they would be considered a major characterization. But if you were to kill one off, stop them from going to the end, they would generally be minor characterizations. Although with any rule, exceptions can, and will, be made.

But in all of your endeavors as a writer, there is one thing which is most important: Have fun with it. Just remember, if you don't like what you are writing about, and don't have passion for your work, no one else will either. Everybody has different tastes, and different ideas for writing, you won't be able to please everybody. But you will capture an audience that likes what you do, if you enjoy what you write, and love what you do. Your creativity and passion for your work will shine through the murky depths of the author's world.

As always, Happy writing!


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    • slowpokevoyager profile image

      Roger Decker 7 years ago from Braggs, Oklahoma

      MIMI, the simplest way to explain this article is to ask you a question. Okay? In writing, do you allow each of your characters to make it to the end of your story? Do they go all the way? And if not, why? What happens to them that makes them stop? Do you kill them off? Do they go on? This is what I'm saying. What is the conflict that makes them stop or go? In every story, even children's stories, there is some form of conflict. I simply put those forms in print for you to consider. But most importantly, always have fun in what you write. Without passion for what you do, no one will want to read what you have written. In every endeavor you will find an audience if you are patient, and diligent in what you do. I may not have a lot of followers, but there is always someone who wants to hear what I'm saying. (crazy, ain't it?) Thanks for the comment. I hope this helps.

    • profile image

      mimi 7 years ago

      I do not Get what you are saying.

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Fantastic information! Most valuable for a writer! Thanks for sharing.