What Are the Subtypes of Conflict?

One of the most important elements of the storytelling or creative writing process is conflict. Without conflict, the plot falls flat and the writer loses a reader's interest. In everyday life, understanding what the different types of conflict are all about can help make it easier to resolve the issue or to avoid additional conflict in the future. Conflicts fall into a few main categories.

Classifying Conflict

Conflicts fall into two main categories: internal and external. Internal conflict happens within an individual, such as making a decision or resisting certain urges. External conflict happens between an individual and someone or something outside of herself. Internal and external conflicts also can be divided up into four main subcategories: man versus man, man versus circumstance, man versus society and man versus self.

Man vs. Man

Man versus man conflicts happen between two individuals or between an individual and physical nature, such as a natural disaster, or an animal. Most often the conflict is physical, but not always. This type of struggle between people is a very common conflict theme seen in literature. A disagreement, a power struggle or a physical fight fall into this category.

Man vs. Circumstance

In a man versus circumstance type of conflict, the individual is struggling to overcome the circumstances of his life, circumstances that may be holding him back. People in these situations seek to overcome the external obstacles in their life so they can do the things they want to do. This may include things such as their socioeconomic status or where they live.

Man vs. Society

Man versus society is a type of conflict where the individual struggles with some social force, such as politics, social norms or social problems that affect her as an individual. Political revolutions or social uprisings are good examples of this type of conflict. Often many individuals are struggling with the same issue. The individual may not be directly suffering because of the issue but may still feel a confliction because the issue makes her angry or sad, and she wants to do something to help.

Man vs. Himself

In the man versus himself type of conflict, there is a psychological conflict happening within the individual that he must overcome. Internal conflicts can be emotional, moral or intellectual. But, in this case, the individual is in conflict with his own mind or soul, not with other individuals.

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