Scenes and sequels

I’ve been delving into story construction, breaking it down into the essential parts. The essence is that each section is a scene or a sequel.  

With Scene we get three parts:

Goal. The character has a goal. Goals make characters interesting.

Conflict. This is the person or thing keeping the character from reaching their goal. Without conflict, things will be deadly dull.

Disaster! The scene ends with a bad disaster. It’s what keeps the reader reading.  Otherwise it’s boring and they’re going to put your reading down and go post on facebook.

The question I’m musing on is whether the conflict must be with a person or it can be circumstances?  That is, I’m writing a sci fi scene and the conflict is with the decay and hopelessness brought on by the lousy Empire’s lack of funding and spare parts and maintenance.  But putting a human face on it for conflict, that’s going to feel contrived.  So I need to figure this out.  Obviously, it’s fiction, you can do ANYTHING you want… but then it won’t be considered readable or good or what have you. If I’m going to produce 120,000 words, I’d prefer it to be smashingly good.

Time to research the subject.

Lisa Piatz Spindler gives an example, and I think it answers the question of whether the conflict has to be with other people; it seems it can be the circumstances.  That post is from 2007.  Hasn’t there been more research since that year? Okay, okay, truth is timeless.

And in 2005, Marg McAlister said something similar here.

Marg says,

2. What is the source of conflict? What complications will arise to prevent your character from achieving her goal(s)? How will your character try to overcome these problems? Will the readers worry about whether the character will achieve her goal(s)?”

She seems to indicate that the conflict can be the complications or problems, not necessarily people.

Perhaps I’ve misconstrued the idea that people must be the conflict.