Defining Internal Conflict In A Character



I learned at an early age about oral storytelling from elderly family members, was read to as a tiny child, and have had a lifelong love affair with writing. That being said, in a traditional classroom, I was a terrible student and hardly listened to two sentences put together by my teachers. There are a lot of things I either ignored willfully or daydreamed through, specifically English, which is not a good thing.

One particular section of storytelling has been a challenge: conflict within a story character. If you don’t have an excellent grasp of internal conflict vs. external in writing, it’s difficult to give your book people depth. I use the Scrivener Character templates commonly found in the software, and they always ask the character’s internal and external conflicts.

I stumbled across this page on Internal Conflict: Definitions, Types & Examples, and the accompanying video are excellent! Unfortunately for me, partway through the video they ask you to subscribe.

Quizlet has “flashcards” on Internal and External Conflict, and you can use them for free. Internal & External Conflicts Flash Cards categorize into Man vs. Self, etc.

I love’s definition of Internal Conflict, drawing on the turmoil in Prince Hamlet’s mind for internal conflict drive his inaction.

NaNoWriMo Prep for Creating External and Internal Conflict is another clear post on the Antagonist’s Internal and External Conflict. For young writers, NaNoWriMo offers elementary, middle school, and high school “notebooks” with a wealth of writer helps, including internal and external conflict. This is part of their Young Writers’ Program in November, but the notebooks are available year long. NaNoWriMo Notebooks for Young Writers

In my case, a major character of a Work in Progress is at war within himself in a new relationship and an old (can’t give away my storyline!). How many of us can relate to that? Harboring feelings for an old lover versus opening our hearts up to a new one? Going back to work after having a baby, but feeling guilty about being away from it? Moving away but feeling guilty about leaving elderly parents behind? There are loads and loads of Internal Conflicts humans face.

Internal Conflict can make you sick if it’s not resolved or at least dealt with by compromise. Of course, Hamlet’s technique for dealing with Internal Conflict causes regicide, suicide, homicide, and a plethora of other bad things at the end of the play. Nothing like a Shakespearean tragedy to tie up all the loose ends!

So these are a few things to think about when asking what internal turmoil makes your characters interesting.




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Ramona DeFelice Long

author & editor

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