Conflict – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Screenwriting Glossary Terms

I. What is Conflict in Screenwriting?

In screenwriting, conflict refers to the central struggle or problem that drives the story forward. It is the core element that creates tension, drama, and keeps the audience engaged. Conflict can arise between characters, within a character’s internal struggles, or as a result of external forces. Without conflict, a screenplay can feel flat and lack the necessary emotional depth to captivate viewers.

II. Why is Conflict Important in a Screenplay?

Conflict is essential in a screenplay because it is what propels the story forward and keeps the audience invested in the characters and their journey. Without conflict, there is no tension, no drama, and no reason for the audience to care about what happens next. Conflict creates stakes, raises the emotional intensity of the story, and ultimately leads to a satisfying resolution.

III. Types of Conflict in Screenwriting

1. **Character vs. Character:** This type of conflict occurs when two or more characters have opposing goals, beliefs, or values. It can manifest as verbal arguments, physical confrontations, or power struggles.

2. **Character vs. Self:** Internal conflict is when a character struggles with their own thoughts, emotions, or desires. This type of conflict often involves a character facing their fears, overcoming personal demons, or making difficult decisions.

3. **Character vs. Society:** This type of conflict involves a character going against the norms, rules, or expectations of society. It can be a rebellion against authority, a fight for justice, or a struggle for acceptance.

4. **Character vs. Nature:** External conflict with the environment or natural forces. This can include survival against the elements, a disaster scenario, or a battle with the forces of nature.

IV. How to Create Conflict in a Screenplay

1. **Establish clear goals:** Each character should have a specific goal or desire that drives their actions and decisions. Conflicting goals between characters can create tension and conflict.

2. **Create obstacles:** Introduce obstacles, challenges, or setbacks that prevent the characters from easily achieving their goals. These obstacles can come in the form of other characters, external forces, or internal struggles.

3. **Develop complex characters:** Characters should be multi-dimensional with flaws, strengths, and conflicting motivations. This complexity can lead to natural conflicts as characters clash over their differences.

4. **Use dialogue effectively:** Dialogue can be a powerful tool for creating conflict in a screenplay. Sharp exchanges, misunderstandings, and hidden agendas can all fuel conflict between characters.

5. **Raise the stakes:** Increase the consequences of failure for the characters. The higher the stakes, the more intense the conflict will be as characters are forced to make difficult choices.

V. Resolving Conflict in a Screenplay

1. **Character growth:** Conflict should lead to character growth and change. Characters should learn from their experiences, overcome their obstacles, and evolve throughout the story.

2. **Satisfying resolution:** The resolution of conflict should feel earned and satisfying for the audience. It should tie up loose ends, answer questions, and provide closure for the characters and their arcs.

3. **Avoid easy solutions:** Conflict should not be resolved too easily or conveniently. Characters should face real consequences for their actions and decisions, and the resolution should feel earned through their struggles.

4. **Leave room for ambiguity:** Not all conflicts need to be neatly resolved. Some conflicts can be left open-ended or unresolved, leaving room for interpretation and allowing the audience to ponder the implications of the story.

In conclusion, conflict is the driving force behind a compelling screenplay. It creates tension, drama, and emotional depth that keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. By understanding the different types of conflict, how to create conflict effectively, and how to resolve conflict in a satisfying way, screenwriters can craft engaging and impactful stories that resonate with viewers.