In fiction, characters experience struggles, or conflicts, that they must deal with and attempt to overcome. Some conflict is internal, between the character and his or her own conscience. Some is external, occurring between the character and someone else, or with an outside force such as nature, society, technology, or the supernatural.
The plot depends on conflict to hold the readers’ interest and to move the story forward. As the conflict builds, the story escalates in tension and eventually reaches the climax. The events after the climax decrease in tension, and resolve the story’s main conflict.
Without conflict of some kind, the plot will be flat and uninteresting. No matter the genre, there won’t be a climax without the rising tension that conflict creates. Whether it’s a romance, a thriller, a literary work, or science fiction, readers want to experience the thrill of the struggle, either internal or external, and see how the characters overcome it.
(Encarta dictionary): Conflict
LITERATURE plot tension: opposition between or among characters or forces in a literary work that shapes or motivates the action of the plot
Edit November 17, 2009: Agent Nathan Bransford has a helpful blog post about conflict: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/03/on-conflict.html
Do you prefer stories that focus on internal conflicts or do you prefer those that deal mainly with external conflicts?