Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Versus--by Linda Kozar

Like many writers, I enjoyed creative writing projects as a child. I wrote a story in second grade about a little girl who fancied living with her bumblebee friend inside a beautiful yellow daffodil. One day, her wish was granted by a kind fairy, and she diminished in size until she fit into the cup of the yellow daffodil she'd admired. Tah-dah! That was it. Short and sweet, but never to be a bestseller.

Thankfully, I've learned a lot more about writing over the years. I've learned about character arcs, plot developments and conflict. Did you know that a story can't really succeed without conflict? Why? Because conflict keeps a story moving forward. Without it a story is just plain boring.

So let's talk conflict! Below are the six main types:

  1. Man against man--a conflict between two people (protagonist vs antagonist)
  2. Man against nature--in addition to the conflict between the pro and ant-agonist, throw in a natural disaster of some sort
  3. Man against self--the internal or psychological struggle (fear, revenge, addiction etc.)
  4. Man against supernatural--unbelievable, unexplained phenomena in conflict with the character
  5. Man against society--a character at odds or at war with society, mechanical threats, etc.
  6. Man against destiny--struggle against a predetermined fate
Man against Man--Your hero's struggle against the villain. Right versus wrong. Good versus evil.  There's nothing mysterious about that.

Man against Nature--Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea," is a great example of man against nature. Any story involving storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters or dangers (sharks, for instance) would qualify. Moby Dick is another good example of Man versus nature.

Man against Self--Can't help thinking of a wonderful mystery series on television. Monk battled his own crippling fears and phobias. He was his own worst enemy as a detective, but he always got the job done and always got his man, or woman.

Man against Supernatural--Van Helsing's battle against Count Dracula is a classic example. The movie "Ghost" is another good one. Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness" too!

Man against Society--Ray Bradberry's Farhenheit 451novel is a prime example of man's revolutionary spirit against a society that has rejected books and intellect.

Man against Destiny--Jason Bourne. Yes, Jason Bourne of The Bourne Supremacy. He was reassigned a new life, a different life where he was conditioned to live and behave in a manner not of his choosing. Created to be a highly-trained pawn in a high stakes game, he revolted against the destiny forced upon him. The whole movie is about the struggle to overcome this destiny that will either end with all those in control dying or Jason Bourne dying.

I hope this short tutorial on conflict helps if you're trying to put a story together. Remember--keep the action moving forward, keep it interesting and keep writing.

Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/Ebook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009) and author of Misfortune Cookies (Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), Misfortune Cookies, A Tisket, A Casket, and Dead As A Doornail, (“When The Fat Ladies Sing Series,” eBooks, Spyglass Lane Mysteries, 2012). Her latest novel Strands of Fate releases in October 2012 (Creative Woman Mysteries). She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, a local ACFW chapter for three years. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband Michael, married 23 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.

Represented by: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such Literary Agency

Member of: CAN (Christian Authors Network), RWA (Romance Writers of American), WHRWA (West 


  1. Great post Linda. I'm printing this one off for later reference. I remember reading one time that every page should have some kind of conflict on it. Even if is a person having to get out of bed or a dog food spill.
    Deborah Malone
    "Death in Dahlonega"

  2. Interesting concepts. Makes me feel too analytical, though. Would agree that conflict creates the suspense which in turn generates the interest in a story. Good post Linda!

    ~Nancy Jill


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