Where does conflict come from?

by Suw on July 2, 2010

I had a really great conversation with Syd the other day about conflict in storytelling. She brought up a very important point: Where does the conflict in your story come from? We were watching, sort of, Short Circuit 2, and getting very annoyed at the bad guys and their petty bickering.? Shallow conflict based on minor disagreements isn’t satisfying conflict. ?

More interesting conflict comes from a clash of values. If you think about Stardust, the conflict between Yvaine and Tristram comes from the fact that he thinks that she’s chattel to be given as a gift to his ‘true love’ Victoria, whereas Yvaine is more of a mind that she’s a free and independent person. They bicker, yes, but their disagreements are really about slavery and freedom. You don’t get much more fundamental than that.

Figuring out where the conflict is in a story, and what sort of conflict it is?, is key. Shallow conflict leads to shallow stories. Conflict based on a character’s adherence to a deeply held belief is, on the other hand, about the very definition of their personality. Addressing someone’s essence, is, by its nature, compelling.

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