Internal vs. External Conflict: Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth @mroth_author #writingadvice

Hello Dears! Welcome back to Freaky Friday. It’s me, Michelle Roth.


Today, as promised, we’ll be talking a little bit about internal and external conflict. We’ll discuss what the difference is, and why you desperately need both in your books.


I shamelessly stole this from the internet.. and I mostly agree with it. Person v. religion is an internal struggle. It’s a personal choice to obey the dictates of a religion. If the issue with religion comes from some sort of sycophant threatening the main character, etc, then it’s person vs. person.

Anyway.. this mostly correct slide sums it up quite nicely. Think about your favorite books or movies. Most likely, each of them has not only an internal conflict, but an external one as well.

The Godfather:

Arguably one of the best books ever adapted to screen.. The Godfather is a great example of this. Michael Corleone is loyal son, who in face of his father’s attempted murder… essentially turns into a monster.

Michael vs. Self:  

his better nature (which he quickly overcomes when it’s time to shoot two a-holes in the middle of a restaurant in the Bronx)

Michael vs. Person(s)

Sollazo, McCluskey, The Tattaglias. Do I need to explain this? Sonny? Leave the gun, take the cannoli. Going to the mattresses? Apolonia being blown up?

So… if Michael was just another bad guy that gunned down other bad guys, would it have been as exciting? Probably not. It’s just bad people killing each other, which.. might be interesting in some way, but not really an Oscar-worthy thing, right?

What if Michael just whined the whole time about not wanting to be part of the family business. No action, no real series of events. Just.. meandering whiny-ness. Sounds pretty awful, right?

… for my next example, I’m gonna be SO SO much of a braggart and use my award winning novel, Trouble Walked In.

Moira vs. Self

In this novel, Moira, the lead character abandons the world as she knows it, forging ahead into the unknown when her father tries to marry her off to a man she doesn’t even know. There is a certain amount of terror that comes along with not having any idea where you’re going to live, how you’re going to eat, etc.

Her issues with getting involved with anyone, let alone a shifter during this transition in her life. Her fears about ultimately being mated to a shifter, the trust involved in giving yourself to another person, stepping into a brand new world with a man you just met. Yep. Some internal discussions were definitely happening.

Moira vs. Person

Moira’s dad was a total shitbag. He tried to marry her off, and generally sabotage her new life from the get-go. Spoilers not withstanding, there was some major MAJOR drama.

If she’d spent the whole time worrying about her new life, and him being a shifter/her being human, would the book have been as interesting? Probably not.

If it was all external conflict about her dad, but her and her wolf were hunky dory from the get-go… not only would that be boring, but it wouldn’t have been at all realistic. Mating cross species is bound to create confusion if not a bit of chaos.

So, that’s what I’ve got on internal conflict, external conflict, and why they’re so darned important in your work. Hope this sheds a bit of light!



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About Michelle Roth

Michelle Roth is a novelist from the Great White North (Toronto, ON). When she’s not disappearing into foreign lands, or making two perfect strangers that she invented fall in love, she’s probably curled up somewhere with a glass of wine and a good book. In her spare time she is typically hanging out with her awesome boyfriend and their two equally awesome cats. She likes taking road trips to nowhere in particular, cooking elaborate meals then making other people do the dishes, and being nerdy on the internet. Her books are currently available on

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