Eric May – Media Consultant




Conflict: what's the problem?

While the character is “who” the story is about, the conflict is “what” the story is about. 

But what is "conflict" in the context of a story?

Try this one: she’s rich, she’s beautiful, and she’ll live happily ever after.

Not much of a story is it?

Now try this: she’s poor, she’s desperate, and she may not live through the night.

That's a better story.

Conflict makes characters compelling

Conflicts are major problems that the character of the story has to solve (or not).

Conflicts are not about a series of events, any more than stories are a list of facts.

Stories are about the struggle of the character to solve problems. The more difficult the problem, the more compelling the story is for the audience.

The stronger the conflict, the better the story for the audience

When you are trying to decide what conflict should be at the center of your story, find the one with the highest stakes for your character.

Good: If the character doesn’t get to the bank before 5pm, the bank will be closed.

Better: If the character doesn’t get to the bank before 5pm, his account will be closed. 

Strong conflict is compelling for audiences

Conflict has the power to draw us into the story, because everyone in the audience knows about struggle, about failure, and faces conflicts and problems everyday.

The best stories, naturally, don’t have just one conflict. They have many, and the conflicts build in intensity as the story goes on, loading more and more problems onto the character to be solved.

Audiences want to know how ordinary people solve big problems. The answer might affect how they live their own lives, or they might just be imagining “what if it was me?”