Tag Archives: conflict

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter Q




is for (Rhetorical) Questions




Q is another one of those weird letters for which I really couldn’t find a device, so I’ll have to fudge it (just a bit). Q is for questions of the rhetorical variety, better known as rhetorical questions, a question that needs no answer, but is used to prompt the reader to think about a topic as if s/he were required to answer it. Readers and writers should be able to make the distinction between an ordinary, information-seeking question and one that is rhetorical in nature.

In Chicken or Egg: A Love Story, Nigel and Paula have one of their first dates (it’s about time travel and this is only a first date in a timeline–there is a first date in each timeline), a couple’s yoga class:

The class began tamely enough, most of the poses being singular in nature, but at a point about two-thirds through the class, the instruction changed. They began facing each other, feet touching, holding hands, and gently rocking their partners on their sitting bones. Determined to avoid his gaze, Paula stared at their hands instead. Nigel’s hands were strong, warm, and dry. She felt his quiet strength as they leaned forward together then back.

When at last she looked at his face, she felt the burn of his scrutiny. Embarrassed at its intensity, she looked away. What was happening here? Since when was Nigel attracted to her? Since when did she find him attractive? Did she even find him attractive?

Next pose—lunge, leg behind and touching partner’s, stretch backward until partner’s hand is grasped.

“Ready?” Nigel asked.

“I was born ready,” she answered. Why was she turning this into a competition?

They enacted the pose, stretching until their hands met. When they did, Nigel’s touch was gentle, his skin soft to the touch.

Next was child’s pose for Paula, hands grasping Nigel’s ankles. Nigel was to exact downward-facing dog, hands resting at the small of her back. As she stretched, her shirt rode up and she felt the full warmth of his palms as they made contact with her exposed skin. She imagined what it might feel like for him to slide his hands down a little further, cup her buttocks and squeeze. What is wrong with you, Paula? she scolded immediately. This is Nigel we’re talking about here. Since when do you think of him in that way?

In this example, rhetorical questions are used to show Paula’s indecision over her feelings for Nigel.

Do you think this method of questioning works? Weigh in with your comments below.

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter P




is for Protagonist




A protagonist is the main character in a story. S/he may be cast as hero or anti-hero.

I tend to cast my protagonists in the role of narrator in my stories, often telling different chapters from different perspectives. As a result, it may be argued I have multiple protagonists, each of their stories important for the reader’s enjoyment of the piece.

In Chicken or Egg: A Love Story, there are 3 protagonists. Paula is the traditional hero type, trying to figure out what’s happening in her life in order to restore order to it. Nigel is the anti-hero. Cast as a traditional villain-type, he is the main orchestrator of the conflict. Sometimes hero, sometimes villain, sometimes love interest for Paula and foil and pawn for Nigel, the jury is out on Daniel’s main role. Whatever his function, the reader is meant to feel pathos (another P-word meaning to evoke emotion–usually pity or sadness–for a character in a literary work) for all three characters.

Where do you stand on the role of the protagonist in the stories you read? Do you prefer them to be hero, anti-hero, or a little bit of both? Weigh in with your opinions in the comments section below.

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter C




 is for Conflict




Conflict is what drives the plot forward. It also supports character development. Without conflict there is no story, end of story.

There are generally 3 main types of conflict authors use, person vs. self, person vs. person, and person vs. society. There are other sub-types, such as person vs. machine/technology (which could be lumped into person vs. society), person vs. the Gods (which is a type of person vs. person conflict), to name a few.

Person vs. Self

Internal monologue is a hallmark of person vs. self conflict, in which a person struggles over a decision. Quite often, the character weighs the pros and cons of his/her situation in an effort to gain control of a predicament.

He brushed away a blood-soaked lock of hair from her forehead. It left behind a copper trail. Her skin was pale, her lips and cheeks inordinately red where her makeup had clung in spite of the blood that had left her. Nigel cursed himself for the situation in which he was in. Maybe if he’d let her know how he felt, things might’ve been different. If she’d only known it was he who truly loved her, not the thug that had fired the bullet that ended her life. If she’d have known, perhaps she would have declined to follow Posner to this room because she’d worry for him and what he’d think.

Chicken or Egg: A Love Story

In this example, Nigel berates himself for not expressing his love for Paula while she was alive, a mistake he vows to correct when he travels back to a time before her death.

Person vs. Person

This type of conflict occurs when a character finds him/herself in opposition to another character. The conflict can manifest itself through dialogue, online communication, or action sequence:

He swung at her. She ducked; he clipped her on the shoulder sending her reeling. She shrugged her shoulder twice in an effort to gauge how hurt she was; seemed fine.

“We don’t have to do this, you know,” he told her.

“You should have thought of that before you threw the first punch,” she replied. She took a step forward and swung at the underside of his jaw with all the force she could muster. He intercepted the swing by grabbing her wrist. He twisted her around until he had her in a bear hug, her arms pretzeled around her midsection.

–Chicken or Egg: A Love Story

Person vs. Society

In a person vs. society conflict, a person challenges the accepted social mores of society. This frequently happens if the protagonist is an anti-hero (like Dexter Morgan of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series) or dystopian fiction. In “Hope Floats”, the unnamed preteen protagonist goes against society when he leaves the confines of his underground community in search of food, something only “paws”, adult males, do:

I climbed out from the rubble to feel sunshine on my face for the first time in a while, I don’t remember how long. I know how to keep time, that’s not the problem. It’s just that these days we tend to rely on the maws and paws to keep track for us. It’s their responsibility to tell us when we’ve had too much of anything. Too much sleep. Too much fun. As if I’m not old enough to figure that out on my own.

Leave your comments below. Describe a memorable conflict. What kind was it? What genre was it?