Conflict is at the center of every good story. Whether it’s conflict within a person, between characters, or the protagonist’s environment, it’s the element of the story that creates tension and excitement for the reader.
All works of fiction will have a central conflict. Whether it’s a private detective trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a client’s cat or an undersized protagonist fighting for his dream of playing in a high school wrestling team, the conflict is what drives every short story and novel ever published. Without it, it’s just people wandering about aimlessly.
Most stories, though, don’t just rely on a single conflict. Instead, the majority of good stories actually integrate layers of conflict. For instance, the same private detective in the above example might also be struggling with alcoholism, while his client hides a dirty secret that relates to the cat he’s been commissioned to search for.
Using layers and varieties of conflict in your stories can enrich the experience immensely for your reader. Instead of just one source of tension, they get multiple, allowing for a fuller, more engaging experience.
Word of warning, though: multiple layers of conflict need to be handled carefully. It’s easy to leave readers confused when you have too many things going on at the same time. Plus, some of the minor conflicts can overshadow your protagonist’s main conflict if you don’t handle them right.