Inner Demons and Outer Storms: Balancing Conflict in Fiction

Episode #23 – February 22, 2024

Welcome to episode 23 of the Writing on Caffeine podcast. My daughter (Ragan Franzone) and I (Jonathan Franzone) are a father and daughter who have decided to write our very first novel. In this podcast, we are inviting you to come along on this journey with us.

In this episode, we dive deep into how the battles within a character’s soul and the turmoil they face in their world are crucial for gripping narratives. Discover with us how these conflicts drive the plot and foster profound character development and engagement. Together, we’ll explore strategies for weaving these dynamic tensions into your fiction, creating stories that resonate deeply with readers.

Don’t forget to ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

Show Notes

Defining Conflict

  • fight, battle, war
  • competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as divergent ideas, interests, or persons)
  • mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands
  • the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction


Questions Concerning Conflict

  1. Can you write a decent story (novel) without conflict?
  2. How does fiction mirror real life (i.e., through conflict)?
  3. Two types of conflict:
    • External: another character, society, government, nature, technology, aliens
    • Internal: personal dilemmas, fears, desires, emotions (psychological/split personalities)

Benefits of Conflict

  1. Drives Narrative Momentum: Conflict introduces the crucial elements of challenge and adversity, propelling the story forward and keeping the narrative dynamic.
    In “Dune” by Frank Herbert, the conflict over the control of the desert planet Arrakis drives the entire narrative, pushing the plot forward as factions clash over the spice melange.
  2. Creates Tension: It introduces tension and suspense that keeps readers invested in the story, eager to see how the conflict will resolve.
    In “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, the tension is ever-present as Katniss Everdeen faces both the immediate mortal dangers of the arena and the broader societal conflict against the oppressive Capitol.
  3. Facilitates Character Arcs: Characters are defined and developed through the conflicts they encounter and how they change in response to these challenges.
    In “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Frodo’s internal conflict regarding the Ring leads to his character development from an innocent hobbit to a weary hero.
  4. Builds Emotional Depth: Conflict elicits emotional responses, fostering a deeper investment in the story and its characters from the reader.
    Katniss Everdeen’s internal struggle with her identity and the external forces controlling her life in “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins creates a deep emotional connection with readers.
  5. Increases Stakes: It raises the stakes by introducing risks and consequences, adding tension and urgency to the plot.
    In “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, the survival of humanity against an alien threat raises the stakes to the ultimate level, the potential extinction of the human race.
  6. Introduces Complexity: Conflict adds layers to the story, making it more complex and nuanced rather than one-dimensional.
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  7. Creates Empathy: Seeing characters in conflict evokes empathy in readers, as they relate to characters’ struggles and root for their success.
    In “The Stormlight Archive” by Brandon Sanderson, Kaladin’s struggle against societal constraints and his own demons creates deep empathy as readers witness his journey from slave to leader.
  8. Enhances Realism: Conflict mirrors real-life challenges, lending authenticity and believability to the story.
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – High school conflict, internal conflict, interpersonal conflict (Mike, Jessie, Edward, Bella).
  9. Shapes Structure: It provides a structure to the novel, often following the traditional arc of rising action, climax, and resolution.
    “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson follows the rise of a rebellion, structuring the novel around the escalating conflict against a seemingly invincible ruler.
  10. Generates Themes: Through conflict, themes and deeper meanings emerge, allowing the novel to comment on broader human experiences and social issues.
    “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand explores the themes of socialism versus capitalism.
  11. Catalyzes Change: It acts as a catalyst for change, forcing characters to make difficult decisions and grow in the process.
    In “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Bilbo Baggins’ confrontations with various characters and creatures change him from a timid hobbit into a cunning and brave adventurer.
  12. Provides a Platform for Action: Conflict often leads to action-packed scenes that add excitement and vibrancy to the narrative.
    “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein features military conflict with an alien species, leading to action-packed battles and discussions on the nature of war.
  13. Showcases Morality: Conflicts often pit good against evil, or present moral dilemmas that explore the complexity of human nature and ethics.
    “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis often pits characters in moral conflicts that represent the battle between good and evil, highlighting Christian allegories.
  14. Stimulates Imagination: It encourages readers to think about how they would handle similar conflicts, engaging their imagination and problem-solving skills.
    “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll stimulates the imagination as Alice navigates conflicts in a nonsensical world.
  15. Promotes Resolution and Closure: Conflict leads to resolution, providing a satisfying conclusion to the story’s problems and reader’s expectations.
    LoTR by J.R.R. Tolkien – ultimate resolution and closure