Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Inner and Outer Conflicts Are Major Keys

All fabulous books have the key ingredients: memorable characters, tantalizing plots, and some great conflicts ranging from romance to death rays. Without one of these, there is no story. Or at least an interesting one.

Inner conflict: What is going on inside the character emotionally. It could be overcoming a past relationship, his/her childhood, learning to stand up for him/herself etc. Inner conflict helps show our characters as 3 dimensional. We get into their head. It's also intertwined within the plot.

Outer conflict: What is going on outside in the character's world. A murder, a budding romance, a fire, a kidnapper, a car/train/plane/boat accident, power struggles at a company, etc. This helps propel the story along. An outside conflict ratchets up the stakes a character(s) is up against, making their goal harder to obtain.

Here are a couple examples from The Swan Cove Murders

Lena's internal conflicts: One year prior, her fiance (Earl) was brutally murdered. At the beginning of the story, she's still grieving and at the same time, she's feeling guilty for her love of his brother, Nicholas. She's tugged between the dead and the living. And she's hating Nicholas because he's attempting to take away her home.

Lena's outer conflicts: First, her and Earl's home is about to be taken from her by Nicholas through court.  Second, the judge orders her and Nicholas to reside in the home together for 30 days. Third, the ghost of Earl's accused murderer is communicating with her.

All of these conflicts are essential to the story and of course Lena's outcomes as well.

I recommend a great book on conflict: Conflict, Action, and Suspense by William Noble. This book stays close at hand when I'm writing and editing. You can purchase it at Amazon for a reasonable price.

AVAILABLE NOW @ Soul Mate Publishing: The Swan Cove Murders Coming June 6th: Secrets of Jenkins Bridge


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

  2. So true - internal and external conflicts really making it interesting!Great tips :)

  3. You brought up a lot of great points. I wrote a blog post on inner and outer conflict for the A to Z Challenge. I'll have to check out Noble's book. I love what lit agent Donald Maass has to say about conflict in his books, The Fire in Fiction and How To Write the Breakout Novel.