Wednesday, 16 November 2016

SCREENWRITING FUNDAMENTALS #13 DRAMA IS CONFLICT

Today's post is something that every screenwriter - both amateur and 'professional' must understand. 

After reading this post - go and ask your screenwriting friends what DRAMA is?

You'll be amazed at the responses you get. 

Simply put, drama is conflict. 

Take Star Wars ep 4 - this is without question the single most successful Sci-Fi film ever made. There is no scene in that film that is without conflict. 

Can you imagine if Hans and Leah got along just fine? Or if Darth Vader and Luke had no issues to resolve? 

The Titanic - conflict of social status. Can you imagine that film if Leo had been an aristocrat? There'd be no conflict - there'd be no hurdle to overcome - there'd be no drama.

But wait, they still crashed into the iceberg - thousands died - isn't that drama?

Nope.

It's spectacle. 

What made The Titanic so successful was the HUMAN story. 

The love story between Kate and Leo. The only reason that story resonated with us was because of the conflict. 

If their love had been easy and without obstacles we wouldn't have cared about it so much. 

The spectacle of seeing the ship go down only resonated with audiences as it was another obstacle for their love to succeed. 

If there was no human story - then the ship going down is simply spectacle. 

At the core of every successful film is conflict. 

This holds true on the scene level. 

The 'secret' to writing a successful scene is to ensure that there is conflict.

If you write a scene where a wife comes home to her husband from her long day at work and he has dinner ready, the kid’s homework is underway, he's cleaned the house, has done the laundry ready for her big meeting the next day and they spend the entire scene saying how much they love each other, the audience is going to be as bored as hell. 

Take this same scene and inject conflict. 

The wife comes home early to find her husband on an online dating website. 

Or...

The wife comes home and her husband is passed out drunk on the sofa. 

The latter two options create drama (conflict).

The first example is just boring as hell. 

Here's the simple takeaway for you...

Go to the script you're working on at the moment.

Look at EVERY scene - scene by scene. 

Find the scenes where there is NO conflict. 

Re-write that scene with conflict. 

The conflict you inject into each scene doesn't have to be heavy-handed - it can be a simple disagreement. 

But you'll find that even a simple disagreement between characters will read far better than a scene where everyone gets along just dandy.

The most common place that I see scenes without conflict are in the opening 10 pages. 

Writers seem to think that a slow-burn opening to their film is fine.

'Just wait, it gets really good later.' - I've heard writers say that in defense of their conflict-free openings. 

It's your job as the writer to engage your audience from page one and never give them a chance to tune out. 

A sure-fire way of maintaining your reader's attention is to inject conflict in every scene.