One thing that makes a story believable is conflict. Something that makes a story even more vibrant and interesting is a three way conflict–conflict between three different people, or people groups, or forces in nature, or so on.
Remember the Battle of Five Armies in the Hobbit? One thing that made it so intriguing was the fact that it was a battle between more than two armies. A five way conflict is hard to write, so we’ll start with three way.
The first thing is a motivation–the goal that your characters are moving towards. And the second thing is why..
Why do they have that goal?
Knowing what is never a hard thing to figure out. But knowing why is much harder to find out. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do things (for instance, as I am drifting to the computer one morning I ask myself why am I doing this? I don’t even know why.)
Because the “why” is so hard to discern, I’ll give an example of a real three way conflict.
The other day I was talking to a (Northern) Irish friend of mine about why Northern Ireland wasn’t free. The reason was a three way conflict between the British, Scottish, and Irish.
The last time restrictions on flying the British flag were passed, there were riots and protesting for months. The conflict is between…
1) British people whose allegiance is to Britain. Possible reasons “why” could be to keep Northern Ireland under English rule because it’s always been that way(tradition), to keep England united even after Brexit, to feel a closer connection with their homeland even though they live far away from it, or because they think Northern Ireland would be better off united with a bigger economy (including Wales, Scotland, ect) than the Republic of Ireland.
2)Scottish people who don’t want to join Republic of Ireland lest Catholicism became the official religion. (Religion is a great motivator; if you can make some of your characters’ conflicts based on a belief system or morals, do).
3) Irish people who want to join the Republic of Ireland because of Brexit and the underlying reason of a united Ireland. Other motivators could be that Britain has treated the Irish badly in the past and does not deserve to have NI part of it.
Of course, the reasons listed may not be the only ones! One thing to remember in writing is
. Every person is a unique individual–and so is every character.
(On the note of writing individualistic characters I recommend stalking your friends on Facebook. You will notice how each person has a set of things that they usually post about–particular interests. Make sure each of your characters has individual views, interests, and passions.)
So to sum everything up, the key to creating convincing 3 way conflicts is to know the reasons that drive your characters to fight each other, and have each reason correspond to all the others. This applies to conflicts between 3 individuals or 3 countries.