Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Inner Conflict

Inner conflict is the most powerful conflict, and it's the key to creating memorable characters.

Inner conflict is opposition from an antagonist within, in the form of doubts, misgivings, guilt, remorse, or indecision. Since a character's wants won't interest a reader unless the reader views them as important, inner conflict is usually moral conflict with the character's self-worth (self-concept) at stake. You can think of it as a battle between two internal voices, one the protagonist and one the antagonist. They may be the voices of conflicting passions, or one may be the voice of reason and the other the voice of passion, or they may be the voices of equally desirable choices. They tear your character on the horns of a dilemma.

Hamlet is a story of inner conflict. In most of his soliloquies we hear the voice of the Critic Within. The inner dialog of the old man in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is another story in which we hear this voice. It distances us from ourselves by addressing us in the second person. It's a little voice in the head that pipes up at every opportunity to say things like
You couldn't hit a backhand to save your soul.
There you go, choking again.
You are a klutz.
Don't confuse that voice with the voice of the real person inside — the one that thinks in the first person. The Critic Within is the internalization of others' voices. It thinks what we think others will think. Or it's the voice that delivers speeches to a mirror. Its thoughts are speeches, not really the inner person's spontaneous thoughts.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:00 PM  

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