Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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Study Guide: Defining the Different Types of Conflict Types of Conflict Conflict is exactly what it sounds like: a clash of two opposing sides. You must have a conflict in the story or the action has no purpose. There needs to be a problem (which is sometimes how school children define the term "conflict") that needs to be resolved through the action of the story.

Conflict is identified, generally, by calling the protagonist "Man." The conflict is signified by the word "versus," abbreviated "vs." The opposing force is identified by several different terms, depending on what that opposition is.

In literature, there are two basic forms of conflict: internal conflict and external conflict.

Internal Conflict "Internal" means "inside." So, an internal conflict takes place inside the protagonist. This means that he is at odds with himself somehow. He needs to make a decision, but is having trouble making up his mind.

He spends the entire story arguing with himself about what to do before something finally happens that forces him to make this decision.

Internal conflict is identified by the term Man vs. Himself.

External Conflict Every other type of conflict in fiction is an external conflict. This, obviously, is the opposite of an internal conflict. The opposing force is outside of the protagonist. There are many types of external conflicts.

Man vs. Man This is just what it sounds like. The protagonist is opposed by another person. Usually, it is a single person that he is fighting, but it might sometimes be more than one. The conflict might be a physical one, in which they have a fistfight, for example. It might be more of an emotional one, in which two men compete for the same woman. Whatever the source of the argument is, however, the protagonist is...