Conflict With A Force Of Nature

Nature offers a convenient boon to writers—a wealth of dramatic possibilities in the form of mountains, deserts, jungles, oceans, drought, heat, ice, and storms. To make life rougher for a character, pour rain on her parade.

When the story's central conflict sets the protagonist against a force of nature, that force becomes the antagonist. The cliff she must climb or the blizzard she must survive functions as a character in the story. However, this doesn't mean you should anthropomorphize it; in other words, don't give it human characteristics, such as motives or emotions or personality. The power that forces of nature exert, and the fascination and terror they often hold for us, comes in part from the fact that they are emotionless. They have no will that we can, through art or cunning, bend to our own.

To Build a Tire by Jack London recounts a man's winter journey by foot through the Yukon wilderness from one remote camp to another. Although he thinks from time to time about people he knows, there is no other character in the story but a half-wild dog. Yet the man must pit his wits against a potent adversary—the extraordinary and relentless arctic cold.

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