(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“All meaning, in the best fiction, comes from—as Faulkner said—the heart in conflict with itself.” John Gardner

“Internal conflict inevitably leads to an external conflict, easily dramatized.” John Gardner

“Conflict equals drama.” Stanley Colbert

“‘Conflict’ here means conflict with other men or conflict within a man, but not conflict against nature or coincidence.” Ayn Rand

“Conflict is a clash of wants.” Ulf Wolf

“Since plot is essentially conflict, you must look for a good conflict.” Ayn Rand

“A proper plot situation involves a conflict of values.” Ayn Rand

“Plot conflict is not conflict merely in a character’s mind or soul, while he sits at home. A plot conflict has to be expressed in action. Ayn Rand

“The more conflicts involved in the same action situation, and the more serious the values for the participants, the better the dramatic situation and the tighter the plot you can construct from it.” Ayn Rand

“I have to show the hero in a difficult struggle—and the worse I can make it, the better dramatically. I have to devise the hardest obstacles possible, and those of greatest significance to the hero.” Ayn Rand

“The more struggle a story involves, the better the plot.” Ayn Rand

“The essence of plot structure is: struggle—therefore, conflict—therefore, climax. A struggle implies two opposing forces in conflict, and it implies a climax. The climax is the central point of the story, where the conflict is resolved.” Ayn Rand

“In a fully volitional conflict, both adversaries must have free will; two choices, two sets of values, must be involved.” Ayn Rand

“The values involved in a story should be important enough to interest the characters, the author, and the reader, a conflict over a choice of dessert obviously will not do.” Ayn Rand

“He has a spiritual conflict, a conflict of values within himself—and the story is lifted from detective fiction into drama.” Ayn Rand

“In this sense, I believe with Victor Hugo that the more melodramatic the action in which one can express the drama, the better the story. (By ‘melodramatic’ I here mean physical danger or action). If you can unite the two—if you can give a relevant and logical physical expression to the spiritual conflict you present—then you have high-class drama.” Ayn Rand

“A drama involves primarily a conflict of values within a man (as expressed in action); a melodrama involves only conflicts of a man with other men.” Ayn Rand

“Your central conflict must be complex enough to warrant the development of events on the scale you intend.” Ayn Rand

“The usual pattern of drama is a conflict within the hero himself and a conflict against other men. This creates the best, most complex plot structures.” Ayn Rand

“Author James Frey refers to the crucible as ‘the container that holds the characters together as things heat up.’” Sol Stein

“A crucible is an environment, emotional or physical, that bonds two people. It can be a scene or a series of scenes, but more often the crucible is an entire book.” Sol Stein

“The key to the crucible is that the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.” Sol Stein

“It is hardly possible to express strong feelings or to arouse the interest of an apathetic listener without conveying to some extent this sense of conflict.” S.I. Hayakawa

“Before you construct a story, you must decide on the central conflict, which will then serve as the standard telling you what you have to include in order to fully develop this conflict, and what is superfluous.” Ayn Rand

“It is the mark of a dramatic case that it contains an opposition of some kind, a pair of wills that collide, an action that pulls in two directions.” Percy Lubbock

“My reading of unsuccessful manuscripts proves nothing, but it suggests that this element of confrontation is the heart of almost all good scenes.” William Sloane