External Conflict Examples: Literature & Film Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


Defining External Conflict

External Conflict in Literature

External Conflict in Film

Create External Conflict in Your Writing

Analyze External Conflict

Whether you're a passionate bookworm, a movie buff, or an aspiring writer, understanding the concept of external conflict can add depth to your experience. This gripping element of storytelling is what keeps us on the edge of our seats and turns stories into unforgettable journeys. From classic literature to blockbuster films, external conflict has a powerful role. Let's take a closer look at some outstanding external conflict examples and how they can inspire your own writing or deepen your appreciation of your favorite stories.

Defining External Conflict

Before we dive into specific examples, let's make sure we're on the same page about what external conflict is and why it matters so much in storytelling.

What is External Conflict?

External conflict is a type of struggle that occurs between a character and an outside force. This force can be another character, society, or nature itself. It's the driving force that propels the plot forward and gives the characters something to fight against. It's the dragon that needs to be slain, the oppressive regime that needs to be toppled, or the storm that must be weathered.

Importance of External Conflict

Without external conflict, stories would lack tension, suspense, and excitement. It's the challenge the main character faces that makes us root for them, that makes us worry about their fate, and ultimately, that gives their triumph meaning. It's the difference between a tale of a quiet stroll in the park and an epic quest to save the world. In other words, the external conflict makes stories matter to us and keeps us turning the pages or glued to our screens. So, when we discuss external conflict examples, we're really discussing the heart and soul of what makes a story captivating.

External Conflict in Literature

Now that we've covered the basics, let's explore how external conflict comes to life in literature. It's a fundamental part of almost all stories, from ancient epics to modern novels.

Role of External Conflict in Literature

The role of external conflict in literature is to create stakes, drive the plot, and develop characters. It's what forces characters to act, to grow, and to reveal who they truly are. Whether it's a protagonist battling a villain, struggling against societal norms, or fighting to survive in a harsh wilderness, external conflict is what makes their journey matter.

Literature Examples

Let's look at a few classic examples of external conflict in literature.

  1. Harry Potter vs. Voldemort in "Harry Potter" series: This is a classic example of a character versus character external conflict. The entire series revolves around Harry's struggle against the dark wizard Voldemort, who seeks to destroy him and take over the wizarding world.
  2. Ralph vs. the island in "Lord of the Flies": Here we have an example of a character versus nature. Stranded on an uninhabited island, Ralph and the other boys must struggle to survive, a task that proves increasingly difficult as their attempts at order and civilization break down.
  3. Winston Smith vs. The Party in "1984": Winston's fight against the oppressive government of The Party is a clear example of a character versus society. His struggle for freedom and truth in a world of lies and control makes up the heart of this dystopian novel.

Whether it's wizards, islands, or dystopian societies, each of these external conflict examples illustrates how this element can shape a story and captivate readers.

External Conflict in Film

Moving from the page to the big screen, let's take a look at how external conflict shapes and drives some of our favorite movies. Film, with its unique ability to visually portray conflict, provides some of the most memorable external conflict examples.

Role of External Conflict in Film

In film, external conflict is the fuel that drives the story forward. It’s the obstacle that our hero must overcome, the force that pushes them into action. Whether it’s a physical enemy, a societal expectation, or a natural disaster, external conflict keeps us on the edge of our seats, rooting for our heroes to succeed.

Film Examples

Let's dive into some examples of external conflict in films that have left a mark on audiences worldwide.

  1. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in "Star Wars": This is a prime example of character vs. character external conflict. The battle between Luke and Darth Vader is not just a personal combat; it's also a fight for the fate of the galaxy.
  2. Cady Heron vs. The Plastics in "Mean Girls": Here we see a character vs. society conflict. Cady, new to the American high school scene, must navigate the treacherous waters of cliques and social norms, represented by the popular group, The Plastics.
  3. Jack and Rose vs. the iceberg in "Titanic": This is a classic example of character vs. nature. The iceberg that sinks the "unsinkable" Titanic forces Jack and Rose into a desperate fight for survival.

These external conflict examples demonstrate how film can bring conflicts to life in a way that captures our hearts and keeps us hooked till the very end.

Create External Conflict in Your Writing

Now that we've seen some stellar external conflict examples in literature and film, let's talk about how you can create your own compelling conflicts in your writing.

Build Tension

External conflict is a fantastic tool for building tension. Think of it as a rubber band being stretched – the more the conflict pulls your characters in opposite directions, the more tension builds up. And when it finally snaps? That's your climax. Remember, a story without tension is like a joke without a punchline – it leaves your audience feeling unsatisfied.

Develop Characters

External conflicts are not just plot devices – they're also character development tools. As your characters face and overcome challenges, they grow, evolve, and reveal their true nature. So, whether it's Harry Potter's battle against Voldemort or Katniss Everdeen's struggle in the Hunger Games, use external conflict to peel back the layers of your characters and show your readers what they're really made of.

Advance Plot

Finally, external conflict is the engine that drives your plot forward. It's the reason why your characters do what they do, why they make certain choices, and why they end up where they do. In short, without external conflict, your story would be a car without an engine – it simply wouldn't go anywhere.

So, as you embark (oops, I mean set off) on your writing journey, remember to pack plenty of external conflict in your toolkit. It's the secret ingredient that turns a good story into a great one.

Analyze External Conflict

So, you've created some gripping external conflict examples in your story. But how do you know if they're effective? That's where conflict analysis comes in. Let's dive into it.

Evaluate External Conflict

Firstly, you need to evaluate your external conflict. Is it providing enough tension to keep your readers hooked? Does it help develop your characters and push your plot forward? Is it believable within the context of your story's world? If you can answer 'yes' to all these questions, then you're on the right track!

Interpret External Conflict

But evaluation is just the first step. To truly understand the impact of your conflict, you also need to interpret it. What does it mean for your characters and their journey? How does it reflect or comment on wider themes or issues? For example, the external conflict in George Orwell's '1984' isn't just about a man against a dystopian state — it's a commentary on authoritarian regimes and the erosion of individual freedoms.

So, next time you're writing or reading a story, don't just skim over the conflict. Take a moment to analyze it, to dig beneath the surface and understand its true significance. You might be surprised at what you find!

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