- Man vs. Self--the identity crisis
- Man vs. Man--"duke it out" (physically or otherwise)
- Man vs. Society--the rebellion
- Man vs. God/Fate--big-time underdog
- Man vs. Nature--the disaster scenario
- Man vs. Technology--"Good morning, Dave."
As I look at young adult novels (particularly the sci-fi/fantasy variety I'm so fond of), Man vs. Man is certainly common, as it seems to be across the spectrum of genres. Harry Potter has Voldemort. The Mortal Instruments has Valentine. Twilight has an assortment of "non-vegetarian" vampires. (What's with everything starting with V?) Even The Hunger Games, which is more Man vs. Society, personifies society as a whole in a single antagonist, President Snow.
In general, there almost always seems to be a "bad guy." That probably explains some feedback I got recently, suggesting I introduce a more significant antagonist sooner. I'm still pondering it.
Does the YA formula require the presence of a Big Bad? I conceived my story as a combination of Man (or in my case, Girl) vs. Self and vs. Society. There are a couple of antagonists, but their role (in the first book, at least) is secondary to the main character's struggle with herself and the society she doesn't quite fit into. Is this type of struggle enough? I don't know yet.
I like to think that for teens in particular, Character vs. Self is something they can connect with. After all, they're at that stage where we start to decide who we are--what we want to hold onto from our childhoods and how we want to expand into new things.
It seems to work for the teens I've had test-driving the story so far. None of them have complained about the balance of internal and external conflict. Perhaps that's all the answer I need. Or then again, maybe I should be working to incorporate more external factors without losing the internal struggle.
Anyone have some good examples of YA books (particularly sci-fi or fantasy) with conflict that's less about fighting the embodiment of evil? I'm sure I've read some, but I'm drawing blanks. It would be interesting to look at how authors have successfully handled such a thing.