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Mental models and inner conflict

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

When thinking about inner conflict, it is good to consider using this description from The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr:

As well as having models of everything in the world, inside our heads, we have different models of self that are constantly fighting for control over who we are. At different times, under different circumstances, a different version of us becomes dominant... Our behaviour is 'simply the end result of the battles.'

Each model is the character's understanding or interpretation of the world—their way of making sense of it, giving them control, and making them feel safe. Yet, many of these models oppose each other, and this is where inner conflict occurs.

Perhaps a character grew up in a home where the parents never supported each other. The character vows never to be in a similar relationship Yet, once they end up with someone, they constantly struggle. They want to encourage their partner's dreams, but their fear creates uncertainty, and they worry they'll be left behind. These multiple conflicting voices—not repeating the past, supporting their partner, fear of the unknown, fear of losing the one they love—create a stewing turmoil.

Whenever working on a story with inner conflict, think about how this multitude of voices fights for control. There will always be a dominant one that drives the battle while the rest oppose it.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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