on Jane Friedman site:
Is there anything better than well-written conflict? The vengeful enemy, sharks circling the sinking boat, a carefully guarded secret getting out in the open.
Readers, fearful for the characters they love, grip the book tighter when conflict is close.
What will happen? Will everything be okay?
The more dire the threat, the more uncertain they feel.
Conflict holds power in storytelling because it touches everything: pacing, plot, stakes, characterization, character arc, emotion, you name it. Internal or external, subtle or obvious, readers invested in the book will find themselves in a near-constant state of tension as they worry about the character’s ability to dodge story knives.
One of the biggest sources of conflict comes in the form of an adversary—someone (or something) that has goals, needs, desire, or a purpose that clashes with the protagonist’s own. Once their paths cross, BOOM. Friction, tension, conflict! A battle of wills, might, and minds ensues until one is victorious.
Adversaries generate a lot of conflict, meaning it’s important to know their motivations and intentions. If they have a big role, we should brainstorm them just as we would the protagonist (here’s a tool to help with that) to understand what’s driving them. But are all adversaries the same? Not at all. Depending on what you need, you have a variety of adversarial players to choose from. Here are some considerations for each.