Ethereality News & Weblog

November 21, 2015

Hierarchy of conflicts in storytelling

Filed under: Writing — Rob Chang @ 11:04 pm

While working on Darkness Falls, my epic urban fantasy novel series, I ran into the problem of trying to juggle all these different factions and characters and how they relate to one another, as well as how their relationships factor into the overall thematic purpose and narrative structure.

I’m a careful planner who outlines extensively, so I need to know exactly what’s going to happen and why, and how each development fits into the grand scheme of the story. It got to the point where I really needed to find a way to lay out the entire structural hierarchy of the story–not just in classic act structures or plot points, but in terms of how the types of conflicts drive the story’s momentum. That’s when I came up with the concept for Hierarchy of Conflicts.

It is basically a way to look at all the conflicts in a story and logically divide them into a hierarchy, so you can see clearly from the 10,000 feet view how your story’s conflicts are mapped out according to severity and range of influence. The concept itself is very easy to understand and self-explanatory, so I’ll just give you an example below that you can apply any story to.

Conflict reasons: Insecurity, self-loathing, self-control, disapproval, dislikes, indignation, disagreements, competition, greed, control, self-preservation, ideology, hatred, pathological

Levels of conflict: Self, personal, inter-factional, factional, regional, ideological, sovereign, alliances, inter-species, extraterrestrial, inter-dimensional

Conflict severity: Awkwardness, attitude, disagreements, mild threats, serious threats, espionage, sabotage, minor skirmishes, significant battles, wars, conquests, slavery, genocide, annihilation

Inner conflicts:

Personal conflicts:

Inner-faction conflicts:
Between members
Between leaders
Between leaders and followers

Inter-faction conflicts:
Criminal organizations
Civil war
Espionage between countries
War between countries

Inter-species conflicts:
Species compete for resources and power
A far more powerful species dominates and oppresses other species

Inter-world conflicts:
Extraterrestrial or extra-dimensional beings invade our world, or their conflicts with each other end up involving us.

As you can see, this list of various conflict causes and severity levels can also be used to help you brainstorm ideas–especially when you feel your story lacks compelling conflicts.

In the world of Darkness Falls, conflicts range from struggles within one’s self all the way to inter-dimensional, with many factions and characters. It’s a very complex and rich world that is truly a pleasure to write in, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Hierarchy of conflicts in storytelling […]

    Pingback by 2015 review, and 2016’s resolutions « Ethereality News & Weblog — December 27, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

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