story conflict definition
A story conflict is a gap between what someone wants or needs and the forces that prevent him from getting it. To build a story conflict, you need two forces that will work one against each other. It’s an elementary tool in every story that creates tension. The conflict will result at the end of the movie.
Why do we need the story conflict?
This is the most important part in writing a script. The conflict is the tool you use to help your main characters face their fears and all other emotional issues. By seeing how they react to the conflicts, we learn more about them and get to know them better. If a conflict reveals other sides of the characters that we didn’t know before, then our character is a good 3 dimensional one. It is also a tool that will help us to understand our story’s premise better
Types of story conflicts
There are 3 levels of conflicts you can use in your movie:
Inner conflict – Thew hero has a problem with himself and his morality. For example, the protagonist doesn’t want to rob a bank, but, on the other hand, he doesn’t have any money to feed his family. Fear and guilt can be good obstacles. Other good examples of inner conflicts can be sexual, religious, cultural and etc.
Inner conflict is considered to be the most powerful one. It helps us to feel empathy towards him.
Personal Conflict – This is an external conflict between the protagonist and a different character (or characters). The other character will be the antagonist.
Universal/social – Protagonist is against something very big like a hurricane, the government, etc.
Sometimes the universal and personal conflicts will represent an inner conflict. Basically, what you need to remember is that a conflict is whatever that try to stop the protagonist from getting what he wants.
Finding out your story conflict and strengthening it
Identifying the main conflict in a movie can sometimes be a little tricky, but you have to do it or you won’t be able to get very far.
The main conflict should be summarized in one sentence: “The main conflict is between ___ and ____ (the opposing forces). If You have trouble to do that, then you need to investigate it.
These are questions that will help you to strengthen your story conflict:
- Who is our main character and what is her goal? The main character’s goal is really the first part of the conflict. What is it she is trying to achieve? You have to find what is the one thing they just have to get. This is going to be the fuel of your film so put some thoughts into it. It has to be something very strong. It has to be something that agrees with her beliefs and ideologies. Try to think even bigger and answer what is their goal for after the film end. What do they want to have 30 years from now?
- The next question will be, what is stopping her from getting what she wants or need? There is a force that fights her. What is the motivation of this antagonist? Being a pure evil guy is not a good motive and if you are using an inner conflict and the antagonist is the protagonist’s fear of talking to strangers, it can’t be just because that’s the way she is. It has to have some kind of reason. Understanding that force will help you understand the obstacles that the protagonist need to go through. Make sure that this antagonist is equal in power to the protagonist. Nobody wants to see a fight between a lion and an ant- We know who will win right at the start.
- The third question is: What is at stake? If the protagonist won’t get what he wants, is there something he might lose? Is it something worth fighting for? Understanding what’s at stake is the answer to the question, why is it that our hero doesn’t give up?
Building a conflict up to the climax
We now agree that every good story needs a conflict, but your conflict needs to grow and develop throughout the film. The sooner you’ll bring in the conflict (as a very small one at the start), the better it will be for your movie. If you don’t want to start the conflict right at the beginning, it can also be good to insert some subtle clues and hints to the upcoming conflict. The conflict will grow with obstacles that get harder and harder to overcome into a point where everything that gained might be lost if the protagonist won’t win this last obstacle. That point is called Climax. The climax usually will reveal to us in what way the hero has changed.
Use conflict everywhere you can
Every scene needs to have a conflict in it and every time you show a conflict in a scene you need the audience to care about the outcome. After you set the goal of your character, try to see what is it she wants to achieve in every action she acts, in every scene. She may say to her daughter not to go to the party because it’s dangerous, but what she really wants might be for her daughter not to grow up so she will not feel the she is getting old. Look for the main character goal in everything she does and says and then look for what is the force that works against this small goal.