Types of Conflict

1. Man against Himself. Examples using this type of conflict are: 28 Days, a story about an alcoholic; Traffic, about drug traffic and a politician's young teen-aged addicted daughter, and Leaving Las Vegas, where an alcoholic vows to drink himself to death. In each of these films the characters are trying to overcome some flaw or addiction within. Most tragedies of William Shakespeare involve this type of conflict. Some of his most famous heroes who suffered from a tragic character flaw are Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear.

2. Man against Nature. This type of conflict usually deals with action-packed Adventure movies and novels such as Alien, Planet of the Apes, and Twister. The main character's goal is always thwarted by some act of nature that almost prevents him from succeeding to reach his goal. These struggles usually involve life and death issues. Will the characters survive the aliens, the apes, or the wrath of mother nature? In Titantic the conflict is will the largest, strongest, and solid constructed ship survive after crashing into an iceberg?

3. Man against Man. The main character has a goal and another character stands in the way of him reaching his goal. It is the most popular type of conflict. This conflict includes most of the mystery, spy, and war stories. But the most dramatic type of conflict with man against man is often the small personal story involving families, lovers or an important emotional relationship conflict. This type includes: American Beauty, The Ice Storm, and A Beautiful Mind.

However, in all good writing the main character and other characters should also have internal conflict, while experiencing conflicts with another character. The best conflict includes all three simultaneously. This Boy's Life, a wonderful coming of age film based on a memoir by Tobias Wolf, deals with a young boy in conflict with his step-father, his home environment, and with his desire to run away from his step-father. However he also wants to be with his mother and this causes him even more conflict.

This is not an example of an action-packed adventure story, but a personal story, with more conflict and punch than the greatest car crash or explosion. This film involves a young boy with internal conflicts who is limited by his choices to solve them. This is what makes the story dramatic, original and emotional.

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