Conflict, Choosing Sides, Loving the Enemy

Any bad script has conflict.  It’s pretty much the most essential thing.  If you don’t have some disruption, your film will be about as interesting as watching paint stay wet.  Overcoming adversity is intrinsic to story.  Usually, the main adversity will take the form of some sort of villain that the hero must overcome at the climax, but several smaller challenges will need to be met in the meantime.  It’s possible– but not necessary– that the challenges are orchestrated by a villain.

Even though it is completely necessary to have conflict, it is way to easy to avoid writing it.  The temptation to let your characters coast without a challenge can be great and lazy writing will prevail if you don’t push for the most interesting choice.  Some writers make things so tough for the character that it is almost too difficult to watch.  Sometimes a protagonist will face insurmountable odds only to somehow prevail in a convenient cop-out ending.  This is also bad.

So what do you do?  You’ve got to make your protagonist work for his goal, but you must bear in mind that he might also need to get out of whatever trouble he lands in.  He might not necessarily win either.  Some writers view this as an arbitrary choice, treating the bulk of the film as formula and swapping out a happy ending for a darker one.  I see this also as a cop-out and sort of pompous and misguided attempt to do something original.

We’ll have more to say on those things when we get to structure.  For now, I just want to focus on what the primary source of conflict is going to be in your film?  You have the first part of the tagline down already “A character in crisis must go on a quest…” To get the rest, we must determine what is against them.  What is holding them back (not counting crisis)?  Do they have a rival?  A family member who doesn’t understand them?  an evil force?  A curse?

Someone, or something is gunning for your protagonist and while we work on this thing, you are going to need to show them just as much love as you do your first-born (the protagonist).  Villains don’t often see themselves as th bad guy.  They believe they are right.  They might even think the hero is the bad guy.  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog takes that truth and turns it around so you actually do like the villain better than the hero.  It’s also a textbook example of the psychology of a villain practically diagrammed for future writers.

Reality actors often complain about how the editing of their show made them look as characters.  “I’m not really like that,” they say.  That’s how your villain should feel.  You are responsible for painting a clear picture.  The more detail the better, but you will also need to edit a lot to get your point across.  As a writer, you cannot just passively watch your creation.  You get involved.  Have answers.  Point ways.  Unless your story is about an open philosophy where there is no right answer– which is ultimately boring and almost certain to coma off as ironically preachy– you must have these two defined forces in your control so that you can show your audience your truth and not a mish-mash of your characters’ truths.




2 thoughts on “Conflict, Choosing Sides, Loving the Enemy

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Quest: From Sandler to Tarantino | cinetactical

  2. Pingback: Is it a Clock, or a Ticking Box Office Bomb? | cinetactical

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