In this post we continue our discussion about conflict in fiction. We discuss how to use genre as a source of conflict.
So far, we have looked at, general sources of conflict, non-violent conflict, physical conflict, setting, conversation/dialogue, and sub-plots as sources of conflict. Today, we will look at genre and conflict.
How To Use Genre As A Source Of Conflict
Your chosen genre will dictate the kind of conflict that you use in your story, but it is up to you to reinvent those common types of conflict so that your story is fresh and new.
In short, genre is a promise that you make to your reader.
What can you tell from these covers about the book? They all promise something different and give us a clue of what we can expect.
When we choose a book we have certain expectations. Those expectations limit you as a writer, but also offer a safety net. Be careful of tropes and cliché and stereotypes, though. Use those as starting points or place holders in your story and work away from them.
The lines between the genres are often blurred. It’s rare to find a book that fits the criteria of only one genre. We mix and match as needed, but I would also encourage you to pick one main genre and then use a secondary genre. You don’t want your story to become schizophrenic.
I’m keeping my examples of conflict to only a few genres. It would be impossible to list all the genres and sub genres. This post focusses on conflict and not on the definitions of genre. You can read more about that here.
How To Use Genre As A Source Of Conflict
Let’s consider the kinds of conflict associated with genre. (I have focussed on ‘outer conflict’. The ‘inner conflict’ will be applicable to all the genres and will be the result of the ‘outer conflict’ that the character has faced. ‘Inner conflict’ can be self-doubt, a moral struggle, or a guilty conscience.)
These examples are generalised and will depend on the story you are telling and which subgenres you are using.
Romance: typically it is a relationship between two people who should end up together at the end of the story.
Think of anything that can separate or challenge lovers and their relationship.
- Long distance jobs and visas
- Affairs and flirtations
- Illness and death
- Marriage and children
- Infertility and adoption
- Parents, in-laws and other family members
- Unrequited love
[If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online course, This Kiss.]
Crime: this is a very big genre and has lots of sub-genres and nuances. For example, cosy mysteries will have less blood and violence than a story about a serial killer. You will adjust your conflict accordingly. Thrillers can also fall under this.
You can use:
- Stolen identities
- Guns and violence
- Car chases
- Rival gangs
- Death threats
In Fantasy & Science Fiction
- Magic And The Misuse Of Magic
- Myths And Prophecies
- Magical Or Mythical Creatures
- Shortage Of Resources
- Seek Possession Of The Same Object Or Person.
[Learn how to write fantasy. Buy The Fantasy Workbook]
- Real Science Or Made Up Scientific Concepts
- Space Travel
- Uninhabitable Atmospheres
Horror: deals with the supernatural and commonly has other worldly elements.
Conflict can come from:
- Communication with an ‘other realm’
- Haunted places and objects
- Possession and exorcism
- Religion and religious elements
- Curses, myths and prophecies
In YA & Children’s Fiction
YA & Children’s Fiction: the age of the reader and protagonist play a big part in these books. The conflict should be suitable for the age group.
You can combine these two genres with most of the genres above, but because the conflict results in a change in the character you’ll often find conflict that reflects the ‘coming of age’ elements of the stories.
[If you want to learn how to write for children, sign up for Kids Etc – How To Write For Children.]
In Literary Fiction
Literary fiction: most of the genres above focus first on ‘outer conflict’. The ‘inner conflict’ is then a result of the challenges faced because of the ‘outer conflict’. With Literary fiction the conflict is primarily ‘inner conflict’ with the character pitted mostly against themselves. Read more about Literary fiction here.
The Last Word
Your genre has requirements. Those requirements will help you as a writer to narrow the focus of your story and to write something that surprises and excites your readers, but also makes them feel at home. That genre dictates your conflict. Learn how to use genre as a source of conflict and have fun with it.
by Mia Botha
Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice
If you enjoyed this post, you will love:
- How To Use Sub-Plots As A Source Of Conflict
- How To Use Conversation As A Source Of Conflict In Fiction
- 31 Writing Prompts For May 2021
- Clothes Maketh The Character
- 6 Tips & Tricks For Writing Scene Transitions
- 6 Quick Fixes For Adding Setting To Your Story
- Where Does Conflict Come From In Fiction?
TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.