Managing Story Conflict

Wrestling match

Dramatic Conflict

We’ve heard again and again that conflict between characters is what drives our stories forward; that without conflict, the story stalls like a truck that has run out of fuel.

But what precisely are the guidelines to creating strong conflict? The list that follows, although by no means replete, should prove a useful starting point in upping the ante in your stories.


1. Is more than one character pursuing a similar goal or avoiding a similar problem?

2. Does the conflict affect the protagonists’ inner and outer goals?

3. Is the main conflict the most interesting and compelling it can be?

4. Can a deadline force an action or decision that is less than the best?

5. Can a “solution” actually cause a worsening of the situation?

6. Can you implement the opposition to the threat in a more dangerous, powerful way?

7. Is there something or someone, apart from the protagonist, keeping the protagonist from achieving his/her goal?

8. Are there conflicting goals among the minor characters that can increase the conflict between them?

Doubtlessly, you may add to this list, but that, at least, is a good start.


Conflict is the lifeblood of all drama. Using two or more of these techniques mentioned above in specific scenes should result in a ramping up of conflict in your stories.


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