Conflict With A Force Of Society

Your protagonist's fiercest battles may be those she wages against some condition of the society in which she lives: a war, a blighted neighborhood, prejudice, or social or cultural expectations that run counter to her goal.

The barriers that such conditions erect can be powerful and intimidating, and the consequences of trying to break through them can be profound. Societal forces could inspire you to satire and comedy or to drama and tragedy, depending on your personal attitudes, experiences, and perceptions.

Cynthia Ozick's chilling yet poetic story, The Shawl, brings home the horror of a Nazi death camp by showing a mother struggling to protect and nurture her children. The horror is pervasive yet impersonal; Ozick never dignifies it by giving it a human face. Sometimes, though, an author chooses to personify the social force, assigning a particular character or set of characters to represent the abstraction. When you do this, remember that to be convincing, these people still must be fully realized individuals—three-dimensional people with histories, emotions, contradictions, agendas, and goals. The concept they embody is only one part of their complex natures.

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