Writer Eric Ernst posted the following entry June 2nd, 2007 where he describes his writing process and dealing with conflict. Read the orginal post here.
Most books on screenwriting will tell you that the most important element in your script, above plot, above character, above everything is conflict. Which makes sense, as conflict is the most basic of elements, since it encompasses both character and plot. Most story conflicts can be boiled down to a simple “man vs.”. Man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself; there is a multitude of possibilities. The “man” almost always refers to the protagonist and whatever is on the other side of the vs. almost always refers to the antagonist. The word protagonist can usually be substituted for hero, and antagonist for villian, as these are basically newer terms used to replace older, more specific ones, much like Istanbul replaced Constantinople as the name of the capital of Turkey. Odd example, but you get the point.
Conflict is then derived from the battle, whether physical or not, between the hero and villian. The tension that comes from these two forces working against each other is the conflict, which usually culminates in a thrilling, combustible scene, known as the climax. There are a plethora of films in which these scenes occur, but many times, they do not. For example, the conflict in The Sixth Sense could be considered man vs. the supernatural, but there is never a confrontation between the two, instead just a chilling reveal. While some might see this as a detriment, there is also good that comes of it, for it helps to instill patience in the audience. Of course, there are things that can go awry, killing your chances for a satisfied audience. I’m not slamming M. Night Shyamalan, but Lady in the Water is a prime example of this.
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