Conflict in narrative is different from conflict in life. In life, you want to mange the conflict. In narrative, you need to intensify it. Let’s start by talking about what conflict means in narrative.
Conflict in narrative, more than just the explosions
When we talk about narrative conflict, we mean that our hero wants something and they can’t have it because the villain gets in the way. This conflict is overarching to the whole story and it needs to be in each scene.
The interesting thing about your scene conflict is that it doesn’t need to be the same conflict. It needs to relate to the overall conflict, but it doesn’t have to be the same. And, in fact, you can even have a different hero for the scene.
By managing the conflict at the scene level, you can intensify the conflict in the whole story.
Scene conflict an example
I’ll give you an example from my current work in progress. I’m writing the third Charity Deacon Investigation and I’ll try to do this without spoilers – although I’m in first draft so the story could change.
The conflict in narrative I’m trying to build is a murder mystery. Over the course of the book, Charity works to solve the murder of a travel agent in New Westminster BC. During the story all kinds of things happen. In one scene, Charity is trying to leave the location and go to Lu’s. So, her goal is to get out of New Westminster. The police want to talk to her about a complaint they’ve received.
The scene conflict is based on the police being the hero of the scene – mainly because they get what they want. During the scene, Charity takes on the role of the villain. She dodges the questions, refuses to talk, protects the person she’s with. But eventually, the cops get what they want.
Aligning the scene conflict with the story conflict
In the case of Charity’s scene there’s dual conflict. The scene has it’s internal conflict, but the reason Charity doesn’t want to answer the questions is directly related to the investigation.
Remember conflict in narrative means that your hero wants something that the villain won’t let them have. Whether that’s accomplished by fist fights, explosions, or a passive aggressive discussion will depend on the story you are writing.