Conflict is a key component in a good story. It may be internal, meaning the character faces a mental or emotional dilemma, or external, meaning there are obstacles the character must deal with. Often there is more than one conflict, and the character must overcome them to move the story forward. These conflicts create “rising action,” and lead the character towards the climax of the story.
A story without conflict won’t stimulate growth in the characters, and won’t hold a reader’s interest. Conflict increases suspense, heightens tension, and reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.
The type of conflict appropriate for a story depends on several things, including the target audience, the genre, the purpose of the story, and the requirements of the publication you’re sending it to. If your target audience is Christian women, the story will need a different type of conflict than if the audience is adult men or young children. If you’re writing a thriller, the main conflict will probably involve violence; if it’s a romance, the conflict will affect the relationship between the main characters.
No matter what type of story you’re writing, the reader will expect the conflicts to be believable. They’ll also want them to be important. Few people will care about the minor conflicts facing a character—such as what to wear, where to eat lunch, or what brand of toothpaste to buy. Those types of things don’t move the story along and don’t help the characters grow.
Dump the characters into the middle of a dilemma or event that makes them struggle, help them figure out how to get through it, and then pile on more conflict. Use layering to fill in the background information and clarify the cause and effect relationship of what’s happening. Keep the tension building and the action rising toward the story’s climax. After the climax, the falling action will culminate in the resolution of the loose ends.
There is an excellent article on conflict and plot at:
Do you think a story can have too much conflict? Can a story still be interesting without any major conflict?