What would a story be without a conflict? It would be boring. Perhaps that is why all stories worth telling have a problem. Most scholars agree that there are six basic types of conflicts in literature. I will define each of these. Then I will provide PowerPoint lessons and worksheets that reinforce these ideas. Use these resources to help your students master the concept of conflict in literature.
Person Versus Person
In this type of conflict, the central character clashes with another person. It doesn’t always have to be a person. They could be animals for instance. I guess It’s just easier to say person instead of entity.
Person Versus Self
When a story has a person vs. self conflict, the main character battles him or herself. He or she may lack confidence or ability. He or she may have to make a difficult choice. Or he or she may have to address a personal problem. The key here is that the battle occurs within the character, though it may involve and affect other characters.
Alexa caught her friend Jamie stealing from a classmate. Now Alexa must choose between keeping her friendship with Jamie and doing the right thing.
Person Versus Society
With this type of conflict, the main character challenges a law, tradition, or institution. The main character or characters may battle against the forces that represent these institutions.
Vanessa makes an art project protesting police brutality. Her art teacher loves the project and tries to feature it in the town art show, but the county commission rejects the project. Now Vanessa, her art teacher are going to fight for the freedom of expression.
Person Versus Nature
When a story has a person vs. nature conflict, the main character fights to endure or overcome forces of nature. He or she may struggle to survive harsh elements, navigate through a disaster, or meet his or her basic needs. Stories with this type of conflict may occur in the wilderness often, but they can occur in urban settings too.
Alex and Scott are out at sea on a small fishing boat when a large storm hits. After their boat flips over and sinks during the storm, Alex and Scott struggle to make it back to the shore. Just when they think that things can’t get any worse, they see a shark fin circling them.
Person Versus Supernatural
In stories with this type of conflict, the main character resists forces that are not of this world. He or she may battle monsters or strange creatures. He or she may challenge beings with magical powers. Or he or she may encounter hostile aliens. The key to this conflict is that forces that are not of this world threaten the main character.
Tara and her friends accept a dare to sleepover in the old abandoned house on the hill. They acted brave at first, but when they started seeing ghosts they tried to run. Trapped in the haunted house, Tara and her friends struggle to escape with their lives.
Person Versus Technology
In a story with this type of conflict, the main character resists technological forces. He or she may battle rouge robots or hostile computers. Or he or she may just struggle to accept or use the technology of a changing world.
Bob is a salesman who never adapted to the new ways of doing business. Now he has a new boss who forces Bob to send text messages and emails. Bob struggles to use these technologies and fears that he will lose his job. But maybe some help from his youngest son will help Bob catch up to the pace of business today.
Worksheets and Lessons
These worksheets and PowerPoint lessons are great for reinforcing this information. Worksheet files are saved in RTF (for editing) and PDF (for printing) format. Feel free to modify or change the content on these worksheets for use in your classroom. They are also available as preview files and the answer keys are included in web format as well.
Common Core State Standards Related to Conflict
Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Conflict
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 – Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Reading: Informational Text Standards
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.K.3 – With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.1.3 – Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.2.3 – Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.3.3 – Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.4.3 – Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.5.3 – Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.6.3 – Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.7.3 – Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.8.3 – Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.9-10.3 – Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RL.11-12.3 – Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).