1. Venom.
    Offline

    Venom. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2

    Creating Internal Conflict?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Venom., Jul 4, 2014.

    I seem to get myself confused a lot with the process of creating well-thought-out internal conflict. What exactly makes good internal conflict, and why is it an important tool within story-telling? How do you plan internal conflict, if you do at all! I'd like to see other people's stance, ideas, and approach to it. Some decent examples would greatly help as well.

    Before anybody says 'Google search'. I'm more interested in what other writers here have to say as opposed to a search engine.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Examples:

    A woman raised by a narcissistic mother who struggles with the conflict between her childhood training to always put the mother's needs above her own, and her adult need to finally have a life.

    Every person with an unprofitable creative talent who's struggled with the conflict between pursuing that talent, and having a reliably paid job

    Work versus family.

    Budget versus that new laptop.

    Diet versus that cupcake.

    Looking at the pet that has become old and unhappy and incontinent and smelly, and deciding whether having him put to sleep is the right thing, or just the convenient thing for you.

    Fidelity versus infidelity.
     
  3. Venom.
    Offline

    Venom. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    Something which bugs me is what I read recently in Writing Fiction for Dummies. It consisted of explaining that internal conflict stems from a character's core values. For example:

    Darth Vader believes Power is the most important thing. However, throw his son into the mix and he has a new value: My Son is important. And so he is left with an internal crisis, son or Empire. However, I feel like this isn't effective as a way of creating dynamic characters. Is this a mistake on my end, or am I doing something wrong?
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Can you explain why you feel that it isn't effective?
     
  5. Mans
    Offline

    Mans Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    673
    Likes Received:
    193
    Location:
    Iran
    I apologize you venom. Before I answer your question, I have to say, your avatar scare me. Specially at night that I am alone in a dim room. I ask you friendly to change it with a flower or something like it to encourage me. If you inevitable to use a horrible avatar, so please use the one that it is a little more beautiful than this dreadful zombie.

    Thank you a bunch
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
    123456789 likes this.
  6. Venom.
    Offline

    Venom. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    I don't know. I guess I feel like it isn't an effective way to plan internal conflict, or maybe it's because I feel that showing internal conflict shouldn't just stem from two values within a person. I confuse myself and over-think the process.

    I guess the biggest reason why I don't feel it is effective is that I haven't been able to apply it to other works, other famous works in literary fiction or screenplays, and I guess I feel like I'm going in circles.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    How else would you create internal conflict? I'm not really asking that as a rhetorical question, I'm curious.

    Maybe your issue is with 'values' and you're assuming that they must be all good values? If it's conflict, then the person must have two opposing ideas or feelings or drives or desires. Those things (ideas or..etc.) come from someone's values, and those aren't necessarily good values.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  8. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I believe you can chose not to show avatars in your display options.

    Yes, on your profile page go to "preferences" and click on this box:
    • Show thread icons
      This will display the classic thread icons instead of avatars next to threads.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
    AlannaHart and Mans like this.
  9. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    My character has internal conflict involving her self esteem. Internally she has very high self esteem, but then her bubble is continually being popped because she gets all the social cues that she's unpopular. She doesn't do the kinds of things that the other kids do and the rejection by her peers makes her constantly question her self esteem. But she also doesn't want to do the things to make her fit in, she finds little value in those things so she rides the roller coaster back up feeling superior.

    And up and down the coaster goes.

    "Wired for Story" by Lisa Cron is an excellent book that focuses on how to write internal conflict. Her blog is a good resource to check out.
     
    Orihalcon, Andrae Smith and Ziggy. like this.
  10. Ziggy.
    Offline

    Ziggy. Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    You make the moon our mirrorball.
    Oh, no. I understand that values aren't exactly good or bad. For example, two people could both believe that money is most important yet both could have completely different motivations, one could want to get rich for themselves, while another could want to get rich because they need to help somebody in trouble. I guess I just feel like others can show internal conflict in different ways, through the use of guilt and stuff and I feel like maybe I'm not fully developing characters to their whole potential because I believe that there's deeper levels to character psychology.

    I tend to overthink which ultimately confuses me.
     
  11. Mans
    Offline

    Mans Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    673
    Likes Received:
    193
    Location:
    Iran
    But I don't want to lose the other users' avatar. Some of those avatars are interesting for me and I am familiar with them. Also I recognize the most of the users through their avatar and I pay attention less to their usernames, except some users that I knew them before.
    Even when I want to notice these users I first attend to their avatar. In Fact, an avatar is the symbol of a person for me that I can remember him easily, without I notice his name.
    When someone changes his avatar he makes me confused, because I am not able to recognize him immediately and I must exercise for a time until I get used to his new avatar.
     
  12. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,735
    Likes Received:
    1,285
    @Mans Yes, but a lot of us also love the zombie
     
  13. Timothy Mims
    Offline

    Timothy Mims Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2014
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    3
    Hi Venom,

    I'm new here, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

    I have, however, found a useful technique in helping myself establish the internal emotions within my character and making it sensible to the reader. Because that's the difficult part, right? You know the character in your head intimately, but how do you get the reader on the same level? Bear in mind, I only learned this from the very critical feedback of more seasoned writers and it may not be viable for you.

    What I've done is taken my character and removed the conflict from him or her entirely and made it a character in itself. Character (1) Conflict (2)
    The Conflict is now an intelligent life capable of it's own thoughts and actions.
    I've found this method to be effective when I re-integrate the conflict inside of my character almost as his or her split personality. To an extreme level where your character would appear mentally unstable.
    Proceed to write short stories putting your character and the conflict in situations where your character and his or her conflict clash. Make it dramatic, make your character fight with the conflict verbally and physically. Put his or her life in danger, put someone the character loves in mortal danger, where your character has a valiant victory over the conflict or an emotionally crushing defeat.
    Personally, I know I'm finished when I forget that the conflict is not an actual entity, ha-ha. I hate the conflict so much that I'm excited to write about it's demise. By this time, I've established enough fictional history with the conflict, in my mind, and the actual products I write seem to reflect that.

    It's the subtle things, like the nervous beads of sweat, or chewing a fingernail slightly too far where it starts bleeding, and flashbacks! Definitely well structured flashbacks, that seem to have the most impact.

    Again, this is my method. I'm a strange one so it might seem utterly absurd to you.

    But there's my two cents :)
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  14. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Yep. If you appreciate the expression and creativity of avatars in general, you have to accept that sometimes some people won't like other people's expression.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  15. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,675
    Likes Received:
    1,070
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Maybe it would help if you broadened the definition of "values" and asked, "What does this character want?"

    If he or she only wants one thing, and that one thing is an abstract quality, e.g., Power, Fame, Beauty, Love, Honour, etc., you have a . . . a . . . o crap, it's late, I'm having a brain cramp; what do you call a symbolic figure who represents particular virtues or vices? An allegorical figure? Anyway, one of those, and not a "real" character at all.

    That's why internal conflict is important in good storytelling. Because without it you only have allegories or moral tales.

    So you've got one thing she wants. Go on and ask, "What else does this character want? What else? And what else?"

    Keep it up until you see that one or more of those desires is at odds with any of the others.

    Then ask, "Why are these wants in conflict? Is it only what it appears to be on the surface?"

    A simplistic example: Your MC wants to excel at his profession, but he also wants to spend a lot of time with the woman he's falling in love with. On the surface that might seem like just a time management problem. But look more deeply. Is the woman a subconscious excuse for him to stop being such a workaholic, because he's been doing it partly due to other people's expectations, and now he can "blame" his love for her when he starts neglecting aspects of his job? Or maybe he secretly sees her as a means to getting ahead in his career, as opposed to loving her for herself. But he's not aware he's doing that at all! But gradually he does become aware; he begins to suspect his motives aren't so pure as he had thought. Give him feelings of guilt, make him wrestle with his conscience, make him unsure about what's really right or best or most likely to make him happy.

    Don't make the choice black or white. Maybe don't let him realize he has to make a choice until the crisis hits and it's almost too late to choose. Make it interesting by keeping the conflict hidden for awhile, even from the character him/herself. Let him think he has it all together and then at the most inconvenient time, let the conflict between his wants/values/goals erupt like a dogfight he's inadvertently waded into.

    Oh, I could cite you dozens of examples. In Pride and Prejudice Fitzwilliam Darcy struggles to reconcile his family pride, his desire to see himself in control of himself and his circumstances (and other people's circumstances, too!), and his justifiable annoyance at the behaviour of most of the Bennet family with his love for Lizzy Bennet.

    The question for the writer is how to resolve the conflict. Through elimination of one or more of the wants? By compromise? Or integration? Or will you let the conflict be too much for the character such that he destroys himself? Will the character become more himself by the way you handle the resolution, or less?

    Your question has alerted me to the fact that I've made my own job harder by adding another layer of internal conflict onto my male main character. It's grown logically out of what I previously "knew" about his background and history, and I've developed it to make things more complicated as he blunders his way into a romantic relationship with the female lead. But now I see that that conflict will not be magically resolved once they confess their love for each other. It'll still be there and I have to get him through it in a more organic, realistic way.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I feel the urge for more examples. Or something. It's probably silly for me to think that there's a relatively simple, "Oh, yeah, now I get it" opportunity here, but I can't help looking for one.

    Would you be able to give examples of a couple of well-known (so that we might know them) works of fiction that you feel that this doesn't apply to? Or examples of your own efforts to make this work?
     
  17. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,792
    Likes Received:
    7,309
    Location:
    Scotland
    I suppose anything that forces the character to make up his or her mind about something creates internal conflict. It can be a lightweight issue (shall I have the ice cream or the pie?) or a very heavy one (shall I kill my son or my Emperor?)
     
  18. Ziggy.
    Offline

    Ziggy. Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    You make the moon our mirrorball.
    I think I understand, that I can find more physical reasons for his values? I don't want to create simple allegorical characters, but say for example I have a character has a value of Love is the most important thing, it can be conveyed through his relationship with his partner--So there's like a path that goes back towards his main value but can a character find new values? Or would a second value have to stem from a previous event or something?
     
  19. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,675
    Likes Received:
    1,070
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    No one needs to find "new" values
     
  20. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,675
    Likes Received:
    1,070
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Sorry about that. I was trying to reply on my smartphone and the keyboard disappeared and I posted the reply by mistake.

    What I meant to say was that you don't have to invent new values for your characters, not if they're grownups, at least. We're all a bundle of values, aspirations, wants, and desires. And those values aren't simple. You can get some very pretty inner conflicts out of certain values all by themselves.

    Consider Love. Love of what? How much of what the character thinks of as Love is actually lust, or affection, or just fondness for the warm fuzzies? How much of it is directed towards the stated love object and how much of it towards himself? Is his love of one thing at odds with his love for another? Work it. Get into his heart and head. Make him make decisions whether he wants to or not.

    Remember that in literature values floating around by themselves as ideal Platonic abstractions are useless. They have to be tied to a person and his or her personality and experiences. That's when conflict between them will engage the reader, for in your character's struggles she will recognize her own.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  21. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    I think some internal conflict is good for character development. What is guilt, if not internal conflict?
     
  22. AJ Conrad
    Offline

    AJ Conrad Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2014
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    12
    For internal conflict, I make the social norm something that the main character realizes is wrong.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  23. Venom.
    Offline

    Venom. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    2
    So how would I go about PLANNING internal conflict for characters?
     
  24. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I usually set up a choice for the conflict. It's like those classic children's story - the good boy wants to join a gang of friends that are cool but not very nice. They ask him to do something that goes against his upbringing or beliefs - maybe they want him to trip a blind man that walks past their school everyday or steal a box of chocolate bars at a convenience store. The conflict is the way he battles wanting to join the group, wanting to do the right thing. No conflict would be if the kid immediately said - You guys are jerks, no way.
    A more grown up version could be a wife has just learned her husband has cheated on her - now according to movie stars and talk shows the woman should just pack her bag and leave - but that's not conflict - conflict would be her battling a confrontation, keeping quite, leaving, attacking him physically, humiliating him - I mean the choices for conflict are endless.
    No matter what your character will eventually choose, think beyond pushing your story where it needs to go and allow those moments when your character could choose a different direction. Let the character be torn.
     
    cutecat22, Venom. and jazzabel like this.
  25. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,434
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Location:
    England
    I don't think the internal conflict in Darth Vader's case is that simple. Sorry if I go off at a tangent here, but Vader's loyalty is to his master (Darth Sidious) and to the dark side. When he learns of his son, his first thought is how to get his son on to his side, therefore pleasing his boss and gaining brownie points. His internal crisis doesn't show it's face until Darth Sidious has been destroyed and Darth Vader himself is dying, that's when he repents and accepts that the good side of the force would've been a better option. Had the brutal death of his mother never happened, then his hate would never have taken him to the dark side in the first place (in my opinion).
     

Share This Page