Identifying major themes of literature and analyzing their development throughout a piece of text is part of ELA Common Core State Standards for grades 9-12 (Literacy.RL.9-10.2, Literacy.RL11-12.2). A common approach for this standard is to teach about types of literary conflict in conjunction with the literature being studied: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Technology, and Man vs. Supernatural.
Creating storyboards and posters is the perfect way to engage high school ELA students, and teach them to identify types of conflict. Visual cues in storyboards bring heady concepts, such as Man vs. Society and Man vs. Self, down to earth through “comic-strip” style illustrations and captions. Posters let students distill the concept into one single image, and can be hung in the classroom when finished. Giving students creative writing prompts or story starters is another engaging way to get them thinking about creating conflict in an interesting story.
Teachers can create fun and easy-to-assess classwork that tasks high-school students with creating storyboards focusing on the common types of conflict in literature. The linear nature of a storyboard mirrors the progression of conflict and reinforces learning. Students create storyboards using details and characters pulled from text, allowing teachers to determine almost immediately whether students comprehend the objectives.
Literary conflict is any type of challenge, struggle, or obstacle that compelling characters must overcome. It is an important part of any story, as it is needed to make the story continue on towards an ending or eventual goal.
While there are several types of conflict in literature, they all fall into one of two categories: internal and external conflict. Learn more about internal and external conflicts below.
You may be wondering, what are the types of conflict? Or, how many types of conflict are there? Many people think there are 4 types of literary conflict, but there are actually 6. These types are:
While character vs. reality, or man vs. reality, may also be thought of as a type of literary conflict, many man vs. reality conflict examples fall into another category and it is not considered its own.
Learn more about these types of conflict in literature and find copyable storyboard examples below!
Character vs. Character is an external conflict in which two characters or two or more characters are pitted against one another in a battle, either literally or figuratively. The outcome can bring about maturity and growth, or a restoration of peace in the protagonist’s world. As you can see from the man vs. man conflict examples, common aspects of this type of conflict include:
Some character vs. character or man vs. man conflict examples include:
In a conflict of Character vs. Nature, a character must face things beyond their control in the natural world around them, including storms, wild and dangerous animals, and even disease or plague. Some common aspects of character vs. nature are listed below.
Some character vs. nature or man vs. nature conflict examples include:
A Character vs. Society conflict occurs when a character goes against the laws of their society, a tyrannical government, or an unfair community mindset. Usually the protagonist is an altruistic or idealistic individual who sees injustice and wants to correct it for his or her world, but doesn’t necessarily intend to create conflict. Common aspects of this type of conflict include:
Some character vs. society or man vs. society conflict examples include:
This type of literary conflict is always internal, as the character is always fighting a battle within themselves. The character may struggle to make the “right” decision, have conflicting morals, or struggle with mental health issues. Some common aspects of character vs. self are listed below:
Some character vs. self or man vs. self conflict examples include:
In a Character vs. Technology conflict, the character is usually faced with a battle against technology that has become too powerful, or is being used by another force for evil, adding conflict to the character’s story. Some common aspects of character vs. technology, often in science fiction, are listed below.
Some character vs. technology or man vs. technology conflict examples include:
When a character has a conflict with the supernatural, they are dealing with things such as monsters, ghosts, and other supernatural forces of that nature. Because these beings are not human, thus skewing the playing field.
Some character vs. the supernatural or man vs. the supernatural conflict examples include:
Teachers can customize the level of detail and number of cells required for projects based on available class time and resources.
Another advantage to storyboarding is the ease with which storyboard assignments can be graded and assessed via a rubric. Below is a sample rubric you can use to assess your students, or as a reference for planning your own literary conflict lesson.
| Proficient |
| Emerging |
| Beginning |
| Try Again |
| || || || |
Student clearly shows the outcome of the conflict and its effects on the protagonist with evidence from the text.
Student shows the outcome of the conflict and its effect on the protagonist, but some evidence is unclear.
Student shows the outcome of the conflict, but does not examine its effect on the protagonist and uses some vague textual evidence.
Student does not clearly show the outcome of the conflict or use textual evidence.
Student includes at least one quote, with proper punctuation and page #, from the text that deals directly with the events presented in the storyboard.
Student includes at least one quote, but it is not directly relevant to the events presented in the storyboard, or has an error in punctuation, page #, etc.
Student includes quote, but it contains errors or is not at all related to events presented in the storyboard.
Student does not include a quote.
Storyboard includes all required characters and clearly names them. Goes above and beyond by adding details or names of additional characters.
Storyboard includes all required characters, clearly named.
Storyboard includes protagonist and antagonist but leaves out other required characters.
Storyboard does not include the names of required characters.
Student clearly shows effort to convey the setting the scene of the book
Student attempts to convey setting and scene of the book, but lacks some clarity.
Student does not clearly convey the setting and scene.
Student makes little or no attempt to convey the setting or scene.
Spelling and Grammar
Student uses exemplary spelling and grammar. There are no errors.
Student makes a minor error in spelling and grammar.
Student makes several minor errors in spelling and grammar.
Student makes many errors in spelling and grammar; little attempt at spellchecking.
Begin by defining what conflict means in literature. Use simple language that is easy for students to understand. Explain that conflict is a problem or struggle that characters face in a story.
Picture books are a great way to introduce conflict to young readers. Choose books that have clear examples of conflict, and use them to model how to identify and analyze conflict in a story. Some great examples include "The Three Little Pigs" and "The Gingerbread Man."
There are several types of conflict that can occur in a story, including character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. nature, and character vs. society. Help students identify these different types of conflict by providing examples and asking them to categorize them.
Graphic organizers can help students visualize the different elements of a story, including conflict. Use a simple graphic organizer to help students identify the problem or conflict in a story, the characters involved, and how the conflict is resolved.
Have students act out different conflicts to help them understand how characters might react to different situations. This can be a fun and engaging way to help students connect with the material and develop a deeper understanding of conflict.
Encourage students to write their own stories that include conflict. This can help them apply what they have learned and develop their own storytelling skills.
Some may think that there are only five types of literary conflict, but there are actually six.
The types of conflict in literature are: character vs. character conflict, character vs. society conflict, character vs. nature conflict, character vs. technology conflict, character vs. self conflict, and character vs. supernatural conflict.
Internal conflict is when the character struggles with something within themselves such as feelings, desires, and beliefs. External conflict, however, are when the character struggles with something that is outside of their inner self such as weather, illness, and other characters.
Good stories are written in such a way that leaves the reader wanting more, engaged, and excited. Compelling fiction must include some sort of conflict in order to hold the reader’s interest. When authors create tension between characters and other outside forces, the story naturally becomes more enticing.