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Man vs Supernatural: Types of Conflict and Examples

man vs supernatural

From ancient epic poems and Greek tragedies to more recent books, movies, and series, the man vs supernatural struggle in stories has been, and still is, very popular. From Odysseus to Beowulf, and Jurassic Park to The Vampire Diaries, and beyond, there is something about this type of conflict that calls to us on a deeper level.

While these stories focus on an antagonist or threats of a supernatural nature, they always carry themes and morals that can be applied by the audience to our natural world.

man vs supernatural

What is a Man vs Supernatural Story?

In any man vs supernatural conflict type, a normal, human protagonist battles an antagonist that is not natural. This could be:

  • Fate
  • The gods,
  • Mythical creatures,
  • Ghosts,
  • Monsters, or;
  • Even things man has created through science that do not exist in the natural world.

Usually, though, these supernatural forces or creatures are a representation of something else, or the protagonist’s battle against them symbolizes a kind of struggle that anyone can face.

Examples of Man vs. Supernatural Story Conflict

The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey is a Greek epic poem about the Odysseus’s ten-year journey to return home after the end of the Trojan war.

It was first published around 700 B.C.

Odysseus is struggling to get home to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus. Back home, his wife and son are trying to put off all the men vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage, who argue that Odysseus must be dead, and he will never return after such a long absence.

man vs supernatural

But why does it take Odysseus ten years to travel a distance he should have been able to traverse in weeks? Well, because he has to outwit the gods—Poseidon in particular—and a number of magical creatures who are trying to stop him.

This ten-year struggle against mythical beings on Odysseus’ part, and against persistent suitors on Penelope and Telemachus’ part, symbolize the importance of loyalty and perseverance.

And both the protagonist and his family are successful in the end due to their ability to outwit their adversaries.

Odysseus manages to outsmart every supernatural creature that stands in his way, and Penelope and Telemachus succeed in putting off any suitors long enough for Odysseus to return home.

man vs supernatural


This movie, released in 1984, is still fairly well-known today, due in part to the reboot released in 2016 with an all-female lead.

It has also inspired a sequel, comic books, an animated TV series, and video games over the years, and is a great example of the man vs supernatural story conflict.

In the Ghostbusters movie, a group of three scientists/parapsychologists hire out their services as experts in catching and disposing of supernatural creatures, such as ghosts and poltergeists.

The climax of the story comes when the three men come across a gateway to another dimension filled with evil beings, and they have to stop these creatures from being released and destroying New York City.

man vs supernatural

Where the Odyssey was about cleverness and outwitting the enemy, Ghostbusters is about teamwork, as it’s only in “crossing the streams”—pooling together the streams from their proton packs—that they are able to successfully defeat the “big boss” (to use a gaming term), Gozer.

Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This upper middle-grade man vs supernatural fantasy novel is a little different in that the 12-year-old protagonist is not a normal “mortal.” Rather, he is a demi-god. At the start of the story, however, he isn’t aware of this.

Percy starts out as a seemingly normal boy who just happens to have to switch schools often because weird things keep happening around him.

Initially, he believes its because of his dual diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD.

Eventually, he discovers that his father is the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, and that the reason behind the strange things that happen around him is that supernatural beings are messing with him.

In the story, his father is accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt, and Percy is given the task of retrieving it before a war between the gods can break out.

But he doesn’t actually have the lightning bolt, nor does his father.

There is a theory, though, that another god stole it to start the war. So Percy sets off on a journey to learn the truth and find the lightning bolt. Along the way, he meets other:

  • Demi-gods,
  • Centaurs,
  • Fauns,
  • Hellhounds, and;
  • A host of other supernatural creatures.

Percy is still learning about who he is and what powers he has, and this goes on throughout the entire book.

So, we end up with a 12-year-old demi-god who is more like a human boy at this point, up against adult gods and monsters.

And despite The Lightning Thief being a fantasy story whose major conflict is man vs supernatural, it has themes that are especially relatable to the target audience—kids around Percy’s age.

These themes include:

  • Self-discovery,
  • Acceptance,
  • Self-acceptance,
  • Loyalty,
  • Justice, and;
  • Fair play.

man vs supernatural

Two Tips for Writing Man vs Supernatural Conflict

Tip #1: Just like when creating any fantasy world, make sure you set rules for the supernatural aspects of your story

That important guideline we use for creating magic systems applies to elements such as fantastical creatures and supernatural antagonists as well.

If your antagonist is a sorcerer, for example:

  • How does their magic work?
  • What are the limits of their abilities?
  • Is there a cost to the use of thier power that might leave them vulnerable if the protagonist discovers it?

If they’re a vampire:

  • Does sunlight burn them, or;
  • Make them sparkle unnaturally, and;
  • How do they feel about garlic and crosses?

This same applies to other supernatural creatures, objects, or elements.

Tip #2: Decide if your protagonist will have any power or agency against the supernatural force

Is the antagonist a supernatural being with limitations, or is it something more intangible, like God or fate?

For example, In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, the three most important characters all try to avoid the predictions of oracles at different points in time.

Ironically, it is by trying to outwit the oracles, and fate itself, that they make the major prophecy come true—Oedipus murders his father and marries his mother as a result of their attempts to avoid that very outcome.

In other words, the three main characters have no agency against that unseen supernatural force, fate.

man vs supernatural


Man vs supernatural is a type of conflict that creates stories that leave an impact.

Luckily, it is also a type of conflict that can be found in and/or written into many genres, including:

  • Sci-fi,
  • Fantasy,
  • Horror,
  • Paranormal,
  • Some dystopian stories, and;
  • Many sub-genres of all of these categories.

Man vs supernatural conflict can show up in internal struggles, like a person’s struggle to take control of their life in the face of fate.

Or it can be blatantly external, where a normal—or at least relatable—person, must battle against monsters or other supernatural beings, like when Buffy slayed all those vampires.

Regardless of which way you approach man vs supernatural conflict, it’s a very interesting and exciting type of conflict to explore.

References/Further Reading,war%20lasted%20for%20ten%20years.’s,enough%20for%20Odysseus%20to%20return.,combined%20with%20the%20Man%20vs,a%20war%20between%20the%20gods.

Article Written by Sherry Leclerc

Sherry LeClerc Fictionary

Sherry Leclerc is a Fictionary Certified StoryCoach editor, Fictionary content creator, Writer’s Digest certified copy editor, and independent author. She is a member of Editor’s Canada, the Canadian Authors Association (CAA), and The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

Sherry holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature and a B.Ed. She is the sole proprietor of Ternias Publishing, through which she offers various editorial services. She also has a YouTube channel where she has a vlog about writing and editing, titled The Mythic Quill. You can find it on Youtube .

Sherry currently lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. You can contact her at [email protected] or [email protected]

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