How conflict drives your story forward

An illustration of a path running through a wood.

The old saying goes, 'no pain, no gain'. When it comes to storytelling, a more apt expression might be, 'no conflict, no story'. Conflict is the catalyst that sets the plot in motion, the engine that drives the story forward. Let's dive into why conflict is essential in your narrative and how to wield it effectively to craft a compelling tale.

Conflict – the heart of every story

Every story is a journey. Whether it's a hobbit leaving his cosy home to fight a dragon, a teenage wizard battling a great evil, or a high-flying executive grappling with work-life balance, every journey has obstacles and challenges. That's where conflict steps in. Conflict forces characters to make tough decisions, to change, to evolve, to strive. Without conflict, your characters simply exist. With conflict, they live, fight, strive, and grow.

💡 Read more about the three types of conflict that your protagonist can encounter.

Conflict as a catalyst

Conflict isn't merely a hurdle to overcome – it's a catalyst that prompts change. It's the circumstance that requires your character to be decisive, to make a choice. The entirety of a story is built on what a person does or doesn't do when faced with conflict.

Whether your character chooses to confront the conflict or avoid it, the choices they make in the face of adversity not only move the story forward but also reveal the character's traits, desires, and flaws.

Conflict – the master of suspense and tension

A story without conflict is like a sky without clouds – there's not much to look at. Conflict keeps readers on the edge of their seat, turning page after page to find out what happens next.

Conflict generates suspense and tension, making readers worry about the characters and wonder how they'll deal with their problems. The higher the stakes, the greater the conflict, the more readers will be hooked.

In the throes of conflict

In every story, characters face choices that aren't clear cut, situations that test their morals, beliefs, or resolve. How they handle these situations not only drives the plot forward but also reveals their true selves to the readers.

Conflict tests your characters, pushes them out of their comfort zones, and forces them to reveal their true nature. It's the conflict that transforms an ordinary person into a hero or a villain, a victim or a victor.

Conflict: the plot thickener

Conflict is the engine that drives your story forward, the catalyst for change, the master of suspense and tension, and the tool that tests and reveals your characters' true nature. Conflict isn't just an element of a story – it's an integral part of the storytelling process. Remember, it's through conflict that your characters grow and change, and it's through their growth and change that your story unfolds.

💡 Read more about the five types of internal conflict that drive your plot forward.



  1. Coyne, Shawn. 2015. The Story Grid. New York, NY: Black Irish Entertainment.