Definition of External Vs. Internal Conflict


Internal and external are the two types of conflict that drive a plot forward. Both types of conflict are usually necessary to make a story interesting to readers. Although they are different, internal and external conflict are related.

Internal Conflict

  • Internal conflict is a complication that happens within a character; it may be a moral dilemma the character is facing, or it may take the shape of a choice or a desire. As author Kurt Vonnegut said, "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."


  • Internal conflict creates individuality for a character; it sets her apart from the rest of the story and gives a motivation for choosing certain actions. It can also be directly related to external conflict.

External Conflict

  • External conflict occurs between two or more characters, or a character and his environment; external conflict involves an interaction with the setting and other characters of the story. Wars, fights, love affairs, trying to get a taxi and all other situations in which characters clash create external conflict.


  • External conflict sets the overall tone for many stories. Multiple characters can be motivated by external conflict, and it creates situations in which characters are forced to interact.


  • Internal and external conflict play off one another. For example, a man struggling with a decision about whether to quit his job may snap at another character, which causes the two of them to fight. In situations like this, internal and external conflict have a direct link.


  • Photo Credit Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • What Is an Internal Conflict?

    Internal conflict allows us to see characters make important choices and either flourish or suffer as a result of those choices ......

  • Ideas for Internal Conflict

    Internal conflict is a device used in fiction writing that enables the author to portray character development. Characters face internal conflict when...

  • Definition of External Regulators in Biology

    There are two main types of regulators: internal regulators and external regulators. Internal regulators are proteins found exclusively in a cell.

  • Types of External Conflict

    In literature, we encounter two broad categories of conflict within the plot: internal and external. External conflicts arise as outward roadblocks to...

  • Definition of Central Conflict

    There are two main types of conflict: internal and external. ... Definition of External Literary Conflict. Storytelling cannot exist without conflict.

  • Definition of Conflict in Literature

    Define Internal & External Conflict. Internal and external conflict are two terms that characterize armed conflict based on whether it is happening...

Related Searches

Read Article

12 Tiki Essentials to Turn Your Bar Cart Into a Tropical Paradise

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!