STORY ESSENTIALS: Internal and External Conflict
What keeps the viewer interested in a t.v. program? What keeps a reader reading? What is the most basic element of story?
At its most basic level, a story is about a protagonist who is after something, and the obstacles she must overcome in order to attain it.
The obstacles your protagonist faces present the conflict that keeps readers interested. Conflicts are either internal or external.
External conflicts are physical elements that keep the protagonist from attaining the object of their desire. They can be the distance needed to travel, the antagonist who fights against them, or even the giant box blocking the entrance to that room they desperately need to pass through. These obstacles exist outside of the mind of the protagonist.
Internal conflicts, on the other hand, are the mental blocks your protagonist must overcome within themselves to attain the object of their desire. This can be a fear of heights, short-temper, or fear of success. Your protagonist must learn to overcome these mental and emotional roadblocks throughout the course of your story. Done correctly, this will create an effective character arc and lead to an emotionally fulfilling climax. Ideally, the protagonist demonstrates they have finally overcome their internal conflict at the precise moment they finally attain the object of their desire.
– Thomas M. Watt
– Script analyst for SpecScout.com
– Author of A New Kingdom