Balancing Inner and Outer Conflicts

A novel’s story represents not only the world around a character, but also the world within a character. If the writer places too much emphasis upon the outer world, the novel may come off as shallow. If too much emphasis is placed upon the character’s inner world, the novel may become too much navel-gazing. How can you manage both the inner and outer life of the character?
Writing Tip for Today: Balancing inner and outer conflict is not as easy as it sounds, but the writer can gain insight by asking questions. Here are some you may want to answer for your story:

  • What is the biggest outer (physical) obstacle the character faces?
  • What are the character’s biggest fears (inner conflict)?
  • Name the character’s most prevalent character trait that hinders him from reaching his goal (could be stubbornness, unforgiveness).
  • Name the trait which most helps her reach the goal.
  • What will your character learn by struggling to overcome opposition in order to reach the goal?

Try This! Take both your character’s inner and outer conflicts and make each more pressing, more dire. How does this change the story?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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