Every screenplay you write needs conflict, but how can you supercharge it for the audience?
At the center of every story is conflict. It's what makes people go on dangerous quests, chase love, wish to be big, and form a league of their own. Aside from Tom Hanks movies, conflict is the basis for every story told in film and television.
So, how can you supercharge conflict in your story?
Have a lot of shit go wrong.
Yeah, it's that simple. You can keep reading if you want, but that's the general thought process.
Today I'll show you how some movies and TV shows amp up the conflict in their stories and the strategies you can steal from them.
Let's dive in right away.
How to Supercharge Conflict in a Story
For a conflict to happen, first you need to know how to write a scene. Scenes are built around characters with wants or desires. Conflicts are what get in the way of attaining those goals.
Okay, let's go deeper.
For example, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the opening deals with Indy trying to grab an idol.
So, if you have the main conflict in a scene and want to supercharge it...you have to add more conflicts!
Indy needs the idol, and what stands in his way?
Traps, a giant rock, a treacherous assistant, a hole in the ground, a closing door, etc.
So when you go to build out a scene, one conflict probably is not enough.
Let's look at a few other stories to show how conflict gets injected in them and supercharges your experience.
Conflict in a story examples
Remember at the end of Back to the Future, where Marty needs to hit 88mph just as lightning strikes to go...back to the future? Well, that's the scene's main conflict. But what else happens?
A branch falls on the wire connector.
So while Marty needs to get the car started and going, the Doc has to connect the wires...and so the conflicts explode.
Doc has to climb the tower, slips and almost falls, and eventually becomes a human extension cord, allowing Marty to gun the engine and go.
This scene would be okay if he just had to plug them in, but the extra slip is what sets it over the top.
When in doubt, add even more conflict.
What about Mission Impossible: Fallout?
This is a hand to hand fight scene. The conflict is clear. One man lives while another must die.
But within that scene, we add a button that HAS TO be pushed.
That button could stay in one spot, but we add that it's ALSO falling off a cliff.
Oh yeah...and don't forget the rock they're on is also crumbling.
These conflicts build what could be the best scene of this franchise.
While this all makes sense in action scenes and movies, it works in dramas and comedies as well.
Who doesn't love a comedic scene with a lot of pratfalls or a drama where a lot is going wrong at once.
To illustrate this, I'm going to show you a scene from Schindler's List.
Goethe is annoyed at an elderly factory worker because he works slowly. Conflict one, he works slowly. Conflict two, that slow work makes them want to execute him.
Conflict three? The gun continues to jam.
Conflict four? The new gun jams.
These bumps in the road build endless tension and create a darkly comedic moment where you're so horrified and hopeful it's hard to look away.
So, where does this leave our conflict in a story conversation?
The next time you sit to write a scene, think about the first, then that could go wrong, or stand in your character's way.
Then add a few more.
The harder you make it on these people, the more invested the audience will become within the story.
Got some good examples?
Let us know in the comments!
What's next? Learn TV and movie genres!
Film and TV genres affect who watches your work, how it's classified, and even how it's reviewed. So how do you decide what you're writing? And which genres to mash-up? The secret is in the tropes.
Click for more.