Table of Conflicts in Sci-Fi (and other genres)

Featured image credit: Now Novel

You can’t have a story without conflict. Science Fiction is no different than any other genre in this regard, except there is an element of science involved somewhere.

CHARACTER + WANT + OBSTACLE = CONFLICT

Conflict can arise from the environment or setting; characters – inner (mental), outer (physical), or between the antagonist and protagonist; or situational – choices that need to be made or a problem that needs to be solved.

One problem that needs to be solved is that there is no complete list of conflicts for authors! There are posts on the 6 main TYPES of conflicts, posts on one CATEGORY of conflicts and generators that give you conflict ideas one at a time, but no catch all list for reference.

Well, hat’s off to you, because you found one!

Now go make your characters suffer many many times over.

Environment (Man against nature)

  • Apocalypse of zombies or aliens or other epidemic/outbreak
  • Nuclear blast/gunfire/war/weapons
  • Buried Alive
  • Attack by human/animal/insect/alien without weapons
  • Falling/down mountain/off building/off cliff/into hole/through ice/into cave
  • Avalanche/mud slide
  • Tsunami/riptide/river rapids/whirlpool/non-amphibious vehicle into lake
  • Fire
  • Tornado/Hurricane/Lightning storm/sand storm/Odd storm
  • Lost
  • Stampede/Crowd

Character (man against man or man against self)

Non-Physical

  • Financial/loss of job/can’t buy food/
  • Deep Distress/Despair/Depression/Grief/Deep Shame/Guilt/Self-doubt
  • Mental Illness
  • Supernatural powers/their own or inflicted by antagonist/
  • Fear
  • Social Problems/bullying/discredited/vilified/

Physical

  • Choking/loss of oxygen/buried alive/airlock
  • Hunger
  • Sleep deprivation/exhaustion/dehydration/heat stroke
  • Cramp while swimming/sore muscles/weakness from exertion
  • Stuck/small space/accident
  • Torture/Incarceration/Short-term injuries
  • Poison/lethal injection/virus/bacterial infection
  • Long-Term injuries/Health Conditions/Pregnancy
  • Vice/addiction/

Social Emotional (man against self or man against society)

  • Poverty-stricken existence/hard, cold or unloving family/rigidly religious or intolerant community
  • Ingrained societal values/customs/traditions
  • Belief based on past trauma –
    • I’m worthless (Will in Good Will Hunting);
    • I can’t survive without a rich man to take care of me (Rose in Titanic);
    • If I show people my true (ugly and scary) self, I’ll be hated, feared and rejected (Shrek)
  • Live in fantasy world/avoid conflict/push people away
  • False identity – act big and bad, but is a softie or vice versa
  • Fear intimacy/fear commitment/secret fear/
  • Criminal activity/vandalism/violence/at odds with ruling power
  • Seek attention/Impulsive/create conflict to hide fear of inner conflict or avoid dealing with inner conflict
  • Betrayal/adultery/shameful incident
  • Emotional conflict causing relationship problems or a barrier to character moving forward
  • Moral dilemma – hero must break laws/dilemma of values/ethical dilemma – against his profession/choice between two bad options/break a promise or vow
  • Overprotective
  • Indecisive
  • Temptation
  • Passion takes them away from loved ones

Situational (includes man against technology or man against supernatural)

  • Life issues/moving/career change/new baby/loss of loved one
  • Technological breakdowns/A.I. takeover
  • Vehicular failure/flat tire/engine out
  • Time/two events occur at same time/time travel/
  • Hostage
  • Forced to act differently – coward is brave, shy is aggressive
  • Forced union of incompatibles – human in cartoon world
  • Change of state – become animal, cartoon, beast, demon, angel, super
  • Forced choices (often leads to conflict resolution)

 

Sources:

33 ways to create inner conflict

15 ways to make your characters suffer

Extra credit: The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

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