Conflicts Within Oneself

We are our own worst enemies. No one can stymie our efforts to achieve a goal as effectively as we can ourselves.

Internal conflicts derive from factors inside us, from our own personality and emotions, particularly our faults and fears. They occur when two aspects of ourselves pitch a battle to control our actions. Our fears are especially skilled and sneaky fighters; they often foil our best-laid plans and strongest intentions. One example of an internal conflict is a writer's fight with the infernal internal editor when she sits down to start writing a story.

In classical tragedy the agent that caused the downfall of the protagonist was his own hamartia, his fatal flaw. This weakness or frailty of the personality—whether arrogance, pride, ambition, ambivalence, or bad judgment—would lead him to take an action or not take one, with disastrous consequences. It works much the same way in comedy, which is tragedy that has been stood on its head and given a happier ending.

A protagonist's struggle should involve both her good points and bad. At the same time she is using her skills, wits, and fortitude to overcome certain problems, her own failings are creating or compounding others. Often, the shortcoming doing most of this dirty work developed in response to the same unhealed wounds and deep emotions that gave rise to her goal.

"Always look to the character's dark side," says author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. "There's more material there."

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