I used to be one of those writers, myself, who had a hard time finding conflict for my story. I think that's because I, like many people, want to see good in the world, and conflict is mostly associated with not-good. We don't, then, want to see conflict in our lives, and so putting it intentionally into a story is at first difficult to do.
These days, though, it shouldn't be hard to find ideas for conflict. Just look at the main screen of CNN.com. You'll find political conflict by the bucketfull--the right wing is accusing the left of something, and vice versa, and a leader on either side who steps forward to feed the poor will be accused by the other side of taking jobs away from the poor poor-feeders. All that stuff gets pretty ridiculous after a while, doesn't it? But it's still a part of our lives, and still an important part of many peoples' lives, as evidenced by the ratings of the news sites. Why not, then, invent a political controversy and a related conflict for your own book?
Then, of course, there's sports. J.K. Rowling incorporated that type of conflict brilliantly in the Harry Potter series. Remember the little conflict at the Quidditch World Cup? I thought you might. Many people, from normal folks to world leaders, have an enjoyment for watching sporting activities, and there are all sorts of conflicts you can use there.
Then there's business. There's lots and lots of conflict in business. That section of the CNN site is full of conflict, in fact, and a large number of books have used that type of conflict to great effect.
And then, there's--holy hell, what a tornado that was. One mile wide, they say. The death toll is already in the dozens as rescuers comb through the wreckage. On a note entirely unrelated to the writing of fiction, this one's been in my heart and my mind all day. My kindest and warmest of thoughts go out to the folks involved in that.
But looking away from the devastation on screen for a moment, you have to agree that disasters happen. Tornadoes crush towns. Volcanoes smother them. Earthquakes shake them to the ground. The list goes on, and on, and on--there is, after all, a reason "Man vs. Nature" is one of the five archetypal conflicts used in storytelling. A made-up natural disaster of sufficient size can, in fact, create enough conflict for dozens of stories.
So, next time you're wondering what to write about next, just look to the noble writers at your favorite news site for inspiration.
And keep the Oklahoma tornado victims in your thoughts, too.