MAN VS. MAN
What it is: When two characters are against one another, usually because they have conflicting desires or wish to reach the same goal.
Stories that use this: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Harry Potter; King Arthur
Example: Your character has been working for a company for seven years, and now that a new promotion is being offered, they’re pretty sure they’re gonna get it. But lately, their coworker seems to have been gaining a lot of favor with the manager…
MAN VS. SELF
What it is: When a character’s main struggle is internalized, usually debating with themselves their own wishes and what they should do. They have to choose between two paths, often choosing between good and evil.
Stories that use this: Sophie’s Choice; The Tell-Tale Heart; Iron Man
Example: Your character is faced with a choice. If they turn their back on their friends, do a few shady things, and join the villain, they will receive all the power and money they’d ever want. They know it’s wrong, but hey, why shouldn’t they have some extra cash?
MAN VS. SOCIETY
What it is: When the society a character is living in is forcing them to do things they find to be wrong, or is standing in the way of their goal.
Stories that use this: The Hunger Games; Anthem; Fahrenheit 451
Example: All your character has ever wanted to do was to leave their hometown and see the world, but society’s traditions state that they must succumb to an arranged marriage and stay where they are forever.
MAN VS. NATURE
What it is:When a character is fighting against a force of nature, something that can’t be controlled.
Stories that use this: Moby Dick; Jaws; The Old Man and the Sea
Example: Your character and a few of their friends are out on a boat, enjoying the sunny day, when a terrible storm hits without warning, forcing them to remain at sea for much longer than any of them have before. They have no clue how to handle this—how on earth will they survive?
MAN VS. GOD
What it is: When a character tries to overcome something that can’t be controlled or stopped, such as a god of some kind. This can also be the laws of science or fate.
Stories that use this: Frankenstein; Good Omens; Greek Mythology
Example: How sad. Your character’s child has fallen deathly ill, and now the Grim Reaper is a-knocking. Surely there must be something your character can do to appease him? As a matter of fact, says the Reaper, there is. Your character must perform ten tasks for him (and they won’t be easy) by the end of three days. If they succeed, the child will be spared. If not, their soul is the Reaper’s.
MAN VS. SUPERNATURAL
What it is: When a character is up against a magical or incomprehensible.
Stories that use this: Harry Potter; The Shining; Sleeping Beauty
Example: Your character’s ancestor pissed off a witch a few hundred years ago, and now a curse has made it so no member of the family will live past thirty. Your character, who rather likes living, sets off on a journey to find a cure for the curse, be it a potion or simply apologizing to the witch on their ancestor’s behalf.