Fact: There is almost nothing less entertaining than a scene with zero conflict and the characters all in agreement with each other.
Here is some irony. We all know one of the most fundamental rules of writing is you can not have drama without conflict. And yet most of us have been trained in our lives and daily behavior to avoid conflict.
This can be a problem for a writer.
When it comes to working on a master plot, the issue may not be such a big deal because thinking in macro terms, we by and large dwell in the realm of concepts. So, for instance, we may derive a story from one of seven major plots as elucidated by author Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch:
- Man vs. Self
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Society
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Supernatural
- Man vs. Machine/Technology
- Man vs. Destiny
Each has a central form of conflict. And I would guess even the meekest soul among us would have no trouble trafficking in ideas to flesh out overarching Plotlines for any of these premises.
But narrow the scope of the discussion by focusing it on these characters in this scene, that is where our life-training can get in the way. If we are reticent, perhaps even resistant to explore potential areas of conflict with actual characters we can envision in our minds, we severely restrict our ability to write compelling stories.
Fact: There is almost nothing less entertaining than a scene with zero conflict and the characters all in agreement with each other. Happy times for them = boring times for us.
Some reasons why conflict is critical to scene-writing:
- Conflict can energize a scene.
- Conflict can make a scene memorable.
- Conflict can imbue a scene with emotion.
- Conflict can provide a point of focus in a scene.
- Conflict can make characters in a scene spark to life.
- Conflict can pull a reader into a scene’s psychological drama.
I am sure you can come up with many other reasons why conflict is a critical dynamic when brainstorming, crafting and writing any given scene. So when you are writing your own story, hopefully you will surface some good drama by asking this question:
What is the conflict in the scene?