Narrative Writing Conflict Ideas
Narrative writing is a piece of writing that tells a story. It could be the story of an experience, an anecdotal story or even a personal story. In every narrative, conflict is the key element that provides interest, tension and suspense. According to Harmon and Holman in "A Handbook to Literature," there are four main types of conflict within the narrative writing structure. Utilizing these main conflict types, a narrative will have the substance needed to sustain a plot.
Man vs. Self
Man vs. Self is an internal conflict. In this type of conflict, a character struggles with his or her own moral compass or innate character flaws. Prejudice and doubt are examples of flaws with which a character must overcome within this type of conflict. "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson is an example. Sub-conflicts within this broader topic include Man vs. God or Fate and Man vs. Supernatural. In Man vs. God or Fate, the conflict is between Man and a god or gods, specifically. An example of such a text would be Homer's "The Odyssey." In Man vs. Supernatural conflicts, the protagonist fights against some kind of supernatural being or force. The "Twilight" series, as well as nearly all classic fairy tales, would fall under this sub-conflict.
Man vs. Man
A Man vs. Man conflict is between two characters in a narrative. In order for a character to overcome the conflict, a protagonist must rise above whatever obstacles are set forth by the antagonist or villain. Most mainstream novels have some element of this conflict type, but Stevenson's "Treasure Island" is a classic example.
Man vs. Society
In this type of conflict, a protagonist's obstacles extend into the social structure or fabric of a society. For example, if laws or traditions are obstacles in the path of a character, the conflict type is one of Man vs. Society. "The Hunger Games" is an example of this type of narrative conflict. A common contemporary sub-genre of this conflict is Man vs. Technology. In this style of conflict, the protagonist must face an antagonist who wields technology as the main force against which the character fights. An example of a Man vs. technology conflict would be "The Matrix."
Man vs. Nature
The protagonist faces forces of nature in a Man vs. Nature type of narrative conflict. The natural force could be a storm of some kind or even an animal. An example of this would be the Melville classic, "Moby Dick."
- A Handbook to Literature, 7th Edition; William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman
- Sand Hills Community College: Plot, Theme, the Narrative Arc, and Narrative Patterns
Alicia Anthony is a seasoned educator with more than 10 years classroom experience in the K-12 setting. She holds a Master of Education in literacy curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing: fiction, and working on a novel.