Conflict is the beating heart of every story. If the hero doesn't struggle, why should we care what happens? As storytellers, we simply choose who or what is being battled. Master these 4 types of conflict and your stories will be gripping nail-biters from start to finish.
As with structure and plot, there are a few common types of story conflict. Understand these 4 conflict types to become a master of suspense.
1) Man fights man
In these stories, one character is driven by a deep need to do or get something – but another character is determined to stop him.
Often, the hero needs to stop the bad guy having his wicked way. Tension rises to a crescendo as this moral conflict is finally resolved.
These stories are a great way to nail your brand's values to the mast. Show what you stand for by setting yourself in opposition to something.
See also: How to create the perfect villain
2) Man fights society
Our hero rages against the machine – often a cruel or controlling man-made regime. In a romance, social conventions and etiquette stop our hero from getting the girl.
As with man against man, this conflict is a moral one. The hero knows the system is broken and unjust. But how does one man overthrow a powerful, established order?
This is the perfect approach for challenger brands. For companies and products that disrupt the status quo, and announce a new way of doing things.
See also: The 7 universal story plots that still entrance audiences
3) Man fights nature
Bitter cold. Unbearable heat. Perilous journeys. Fearsome creatures. These stories aren't morality tales – they're about the primal fight to survive.
In these stories, a central character struggles against a natural onslaught. Deep down we know he'll make it, the question is: how?
This kind of conflict is tailor-made for travel and adventure products, and brands aimed at sporty or outdoorsy types. Also useful for anything sold as 'refreshing' – beer, mints, deodorant.
See also: How to make your customer a hero
4) Man fights himself
The age-old battle of conscience, this war is waged in our hero's mind. He struggles between good and evil, between following heart or head.
All classic heroes fight their thoughts – their flaws, fears and insecurities. Can they do the right thing even when they’re pulled toward an easier or more destructive path?
This story type is great for moreish products you wouldn't want to share, those considered guilty pleasures, and anything that 'gets you through'.
The key to a good story is actually really simple. Give your audience a relatable hero – someone they identify with or admire– and provide one of these compelling conflicts for them to overcome.
You'll have them on the edge of their seats.
The Seven Pillars of Storytelling
Audiences are tired of facts and figures. But stories? We’re hardwired to see stories as a gift.
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