Bad Guys Hurricanes and Fatal Flaws

This brings us to a consideration of the kinds of conflicts and opposing forces your characters might face. What could get in the way of the protagonist's reaching her goal? The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. Frequently the opponent is another character, but not always. Your main character may face impersonal adversaries—events and circumstances that threaten to thwart her efforts to achieve her goal. She could even prove to be her own worst enemy.

For example, in Bharati Mukherjee's story, The Management of Grief, the world of the main character, Shaila, is thrown into upheaval when a plane crash claims the lives of her husband and sons. Shaila's goal is to find some way to come to terms with such an overpowering loss and to move, step by step, into what will become her new life. Her opponents are her own grief and the expectations that others hold about how she should feel and express it.

There are four principal types of conflict you can draw upon to set up your story's central struggle and provide the snags and impediments the protagonist must encounter as she tries to resolve it. Three are external, inflicted on her from outside sources. The fourth kind emanates from within. The richest stories develop when internal and external conflicts play against each other. An external conflict sets up a challenge. Does the character meet it with her strengths or her weaknesses? Either way, but particularly in the latter case, she could be setting the stage for a new problem to appear.

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