Man versus Nature is another of the six forms of conflict. At their base, these stories include facing down an element of nature. In some cases, the character may seek out the conflict, striving to assert their dominance over an element of nature (i.e. slaying the dragon).
A fairly well-known tale is that of the ant and the grasshopper–the hardworking ant diligently prepares for the upcoming winter while the grasshopper laughs and plays the summer away. Come winter and the ant is fine while the grasshopper ends up dead. Although that particular example is a folk tale, the play of conflict in versus Nature stories is clear: the conflict doesn’t need to necessarily have to have a struggle. The tension of knowing what is coming for the foolish grasshopper can be a powerful tool to use.
Another place to find versus Nature conflicts is also in survival stories. These might be in places where someone has survived attacks by various animals, or days in the wilderness, or in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Man versus Self is one of six types of conflict. I discussed conflict and how it matters in writing in an earlier post. Each form has their own unique characteristics which sets it apart from the others.
Of each type, Man versus Self conflicts might seem like the easiest to identify. Often, these are the internal conflicts each character deals with that stem from moral dilemmas or opposing personal goals. Conflicts of the self are going to pit your character against their worst enemy: themselves.
That internal nature of the versus Self also leads this to be a huge component in stories of change and growth. The beauty of this type of conflict is that it’s one that can be utilized on practically every character (including your antagonist): What one personal thing holds them back from reaching their goal? And how do they feel about that obstacle?
If you’re struggling with character arcs, this type of conflict can be an underlying cause. Take a look at what your characters are struggling with and see if you can identify where they’re against others and where they’re fighting themselves and their own limitations. You might find there’s an imbalance between what your minor characters’ versus Self struggles and any other conflicts they’re involved in.
Conflict is the driving force behind any plot. Whether it’s a character conflicted over the choices they’re making and actions they’re taking, or two opposing forces trying to accomplish opposing goals, conflict drives your plot forward. If you don’t have some form of conflict, you don’t have much of a story. To illustrate:
Johnny walking home from school is just Johnny walking home from school. Not much interest. Johnny dreading getting home from school because of a bad grade or because his mean older brother will be watching him creates conflict. How is he going to deal with that bad grade when he’s confronted about it? What can he do to avoid his older brother?
Much like there are similar plot scenarios, conflict takes six particular forms.
Each form of conflict has its own traits, which I’ll cover in the upcoming posts. You’ll be able to return here to catch up on any conflict posts you’ve missed.