What is Conflict in the Short Story or Flash Fiction?

What is conflict and how do you create it?

Juneta Key
The Art of Fiction
Published in
5 min readSep 13, 2019


Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash

Writing is hard. Figuring out what works and actually implementing that knowledge is not as easy as you would think it should be.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
— Mark Twain

What conflict isn’t?

It is not just random things happening to a character. It is not the everyday routine that brings about routine change and interactions. e.g. going to work, eating, cooking, hanging out with friends, getting dress and so on… That would be boring to read right?

Newton’s first law: An object in motion will remain in motion with the same speed and direction until it’s affected by an external force.

Conflict is…

Conflict is the external or internal force, in regards to the story/character, that stops the motion of the everyday routine.

It is a problem where two opposing forces struggle over that problem with opposing agendas. Those opposing forces can exist within the single character too.

Conflict forces a change of direction positive or negative, leading to a revelation, or some enlightenment, or an action or decision the character takes one way or the other.

This action stems from a strong internal desire or need, and sometimes an external action that forces the character to act or both.

The strength of the conflict depends on what you need the scene to do, or accomplish, to move the story forward toward the story end goal.

It also depends on the word count limits.

In a short story, especially flash fiction, every word, and action count. You have 500 to 1000 words to get the story told. Word count for the short story goes up to, but generally less than, 7500 words. Most short stories are 3000 to 5000 words.

I enjoy writing flash fiction. I created the article below about what makes a good flash fiction piece.