There must be a theme (overall story concept), a mission (definition of hero’s goal and journey) and a lesson (what has been learned) in most stories. Otherwise, the story is simply a series of inconsequential events without conflict.
The grandest conflict can be reduced to a battle between good and evil, the rational versus the irrational warring in the human heart. Abraham Lincoln famously said : “The dark side sometimes overcomes the better angels of our nature”.
Conflict is the key dramatic driver of all stories. It creates tension, excitement and vitality. In its rudimentary form, conflict arises when an obstacle impedes the protagonist from achieving their goal.
Great stories contain conflicts for the majority of characters, not just the main one. Tri-level conflict is categorized as internal, external and the over-arching story conflict which relates to theme. Typical conflict scenarios include:
MAN vs OTHERS (PHYSICAL) – The leading character struggles with his physical strength against other men, forces of nature, or animals.
MAN vs. CIRCUMSTANCES (CLASSICAL) – The leading character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her.
MAN vs. SOCIETY (SOCIAL) – The leading character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people.
MAN vs. HIMSELF (PSYCHOLOGICAL) - The leading character struggles with himself/herself; with his/her own soul, conscience, ideology, morality, ideas of right or wrong, physical limitations, choices, etc.