Spanning genres and media, conflict is a main driver of interest in stories. We follow along in a book or movie to identify and observe the escalating struggles that our heroes face, eager to learn their solutions and resolutions.
Fantasy lit affords its stories the freedom to explore conflicts of all shapes and sizes. We have the classic, epic flavor, of course. Harry vs. Voldemort. The Fellowship vs. Sauron’s forces. The Na’vi vs. the Sky People. (Sorry, still a huge fan of Avatar. Can’t wait for it to break the last Titanic record this week!) This level of conflict is typically the most obvious. It gets the most air (or page) time. It’s what’s featured on the jacket cover or in the movie preview narrated by that guy with the cool, raspy voice.
But good stories go beyond the apparent and develop the plot with more subtle, personal layers. What about the condemned relationship between Arwen and Aragorn, two lovers who hail from differing societies and life expectancies? Or the scholastic and social rivalries between Harry and Draco, or even Harry and Ron at times? Or little Percy’s quest to win the approval of an all-powerful, but aloof father? These types of struggles are supplementary to the main conflict, yet in many ways, they are just as vital to the success of the story as the “Big Bad” that our heroes must overcome. Without these more intimate battles, the story itself would feel bland, tired, and derivative.
What are some of the most intriguing, compelling conflicts you’ve encountered in your favorite stories, and why did they draw your interest?