One of the more obvious conflicts to arise in any book, comes from outside of our characters. In these instances, a situation places the character in a do or die moment. But perhaps more subtle and even more powerful is the inner conflict that arises in our character’s soul during such wrestling of the heart.
Inner conflict is hard to create and make realistic, yet it’s something we as individuals experience every day. We don’t always explicitly state what’s going on inside our heads. It’s personal, deeper than that outside problem weighing us. So for the author, the question becomes how does one create a character with realistic inner conflict?
1. Develop the character’s personality down to the core of their being. Know in advance who your character claims to be and what they aspire to become. We don’t always fit the roles we desire. Understand your character’s flaws. Determine what makes him human and what he wants from life.
2. Give your character a clashing outer conflict. Once you know your character’s personality, you can plant a conflict into the novel which directly defies their moral fiber or who they think they are. This conflict becomes a pivotal point. It may seem outer and physical to the naked eye, but for your character, it’s a breaking of themselves. Show the wrestling inside the character’s heart. Don’t make this easy. Let the reader feel the pursuit of the inevitable problem ahead.
3. Build sorrow. To make realistic characters, we have to create individuals who feel their failures. Inner conflict is personal. It’s a void inside of the character which can’t find satisfaction. It’s beyond your character’s control. It’s inherent to who she claims to be and what makes the outer conflict so difficult.
Inner conflict places depth into our novels. It’s where we see transformation and hope, and it’s how we leave something behind for our readers to take away.