Scriptnotes #179: The Conflict Episode: Craig and John discuss conflict — why it’s bad in real life but essential in screenwriting. We define six forms of conflict common in movies, then look at ways to sustain conflict within a scene and throughout a story.
These are my brief notes from the episode, but I strongly recommend listening to the full podcast for more insights and discussion on this topic.
- Argument. A physical fight or verbal argument. “We have one word for both punching each other in the face and yelling at each other: They’re fighting.” These kinds of conflicts however are not often the most effective or impactful kind of conflict.
- Struggle against circumstance. “This can be as simple as ‘I’ve locked my keys in the car’ or ‘I’m freezing and I need to get warm.'” Man vs. nature, man vs. object, man getting laid-off by corporation. Eg. Castaway.
- Unfulfilled desire. An internal conflict: “I want something that I cannot have; how can I get it?” Eg. Rocky (and a lot of sports movies).
- Avoiding a negative outcome. “I have to break up with this person, I just don’t want to hurt his feelings.” Often used in comedies.
- Confusion. A lack of information puts your character in conflict with the world around you, eg. The Matrix or The Bourne Identity.
- Dilemma. You have to make a choice, but all the choices are bad. Eg. Sophie’s Choice. It can be a crisis point, but it’s hard to sustain over the course of a movie.