No Conflict, No Story

Beginning April 4th, I’ll be leading a 4-week online workshop for the Pennwriter’s Association where we’ll explore developing your screenplay. Over at the wonderful Script Slug Script Depository, I’ve cobbled together some thoughts on how Conflict drives plot AND character development. We’ll look at critical components such as structure, character, style, formatting, and a particularly critical part of the equation: SOURCES OF ANTAGONISM otherwise known as Conflict.

As a screenwriting instructor and consultant, I encourage writers to push the boundaries of storytelling while making sure their readers (and the audience!) don’t get lost along the way. Forget 3-act structure, let’s talk 5-act. Turn tropes inside out. Instead of leaving a Deus Ex Machina on the cutting room floor, lean into it. I mean really lean into it.

There’s one thing that will never change, however: Conflict remains king, queen, the ruler of the whole shebang. It’s your driving force. Your engine. The wheels on the bus. Without conflict, you don’t have a story. You have a static picture. A photograph or a painting.

That’s not what movies are about. They’re motion pictures. Motion. Movement. In one direction or another. Either there’s a positive or negative change. In characters. Circumstances. Setting. Something CHANGES.

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s just one kind of conflict. Your story doesn’t have to have two sides at literal war with each other. Conflict can take on so many different forms.

SIDE NOTE: Let’s not forget the hero’s journey, which gives us the very basics underlying the different stages of a story. The most fulfilling stories include a protagonist and antagonist each going through some sort of character arc, reacting (changing, growing) to actions based on dealing with conflict.

The protagonist and antagonist are constantly dealing with conflict, which is what makes for a great story. To read the full article, visit There I lay out a variety of different types of conflict, utilizing well known screenplays that you can read (for free).

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