Conflicting desires are the bread and butter of internal conflict. Dramatic conflict as I know it is diametrically opposing forces, motivations, stakes, and outcomes. For example, life or death, riches or rags, damnation or salvation, and the forces that influence those oppositions.
A way of looking at internal conflict, how and when it comes into play, examines what causes it. Causation. The next-door Jones buy a new car. That's one--a bridging complication, or bridging conflict Donald Maass calls it.
Larry is jealous, angry he can't afford a new car. He's disappointed with his beach boy beater rolling wreck of a car that had been his beloved pride and joy. That's a Discovery, a first minor turn. He does what? Nothing much at first. He grumbles. At work, he asks for a raise. No, he's told. That's two, a Reversal, another minor turn. He finds out his work peers at the bumper boat park at the beach got raises and wonders why he didn't. Show why he doesn''t, routine tardyism and absenteeism, poor work productivity. He's looking at losing his job. That's three, another Discovery and turn. Three's enough to incite a crisis. Larry is compelled to act. Taking action is a Reversal of circumstances. In this case, intertruptions of Larry's routine. He now has a want or desire he didn't have before. He's changed from the get-go and on a wild ride of internal and external clashes toward ongoing changes and in the end he's profoundly transformed. An inciting crisis is a first major turn, incorporating a major discovery and reversal.
For universal appeal, high-concept premises are ideal for creating conflict writing-wise. Wanting to keep up with the Jones is high-concept. What opposes it? Larry wants to remain unchanged. Change is risky. Change is problematic. It takes a lot of effort to compel change when a person refuses to change. What cause opposes Larry wanting to keep up with the Jones? He's broke, flat skin-flinted. He self-justifies not trying by thinking new cars are ostentatious displays of wealth. If he buys a new car, he will be ostracized by his beach bum surfer acquaintances. Another external clash there in the offing.
However, artful internal conflicts tend to be low concept: subtext, figurative rather than literal, subjective, and abstract or intangible because they involve emotions. So introspection, sensation, and conversation are essential for showing internal conflicts. Plus action.
Conflict begins at a beginning, a First Cause that starts the causation train rolling. The train starts off from a standstill, creeps along gaining momentum, until it's rolling flat out, barrelling down the track.
If I were to write about Larry's insuperable struggle, I would start off with describing how he perceives the Jones's new car. I'd use the car as an object to set the scene in context for orienting readers to the persons, places, times, situations, and narrative voice attitudes so readers pick up the who, what, when, where, how, and why they are during the ride on the runaway causation freight train and should care about Larry's insuperable struggle.
How's internal conflict done? Pour on the hardship, at least two, idealy three compelling circumstances that upset emotional equilibrium and escalate disequilibrium to the point a character has to take action. For theme's power to unify, I'd be looking at Larry as a young man on the cusp of middle adulthood struggling with growing up. Wanting to stay an early adult, but conflicted by wanting the rights and privileges of full adulthood and turning back because he's afraid of the obligations and responsibilities entailed therein. Bye Bye Miss American Pie by Don Maclean is about that internal conflict, as is Carlo Collodi's Pinnochio.
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