Clint Johnson—Conflict and the Mechanism of Story Part 2
Conflict is the high-grade fuel of a story, the drama, the reaction of resistance, not just tension.
Dramatic Conflict needs: 1) Need. Character needs something, a motivation. This need breaks the character from routines of life and creates action. Tip: We don’t want real life, we want an assimilation of real life. 2) Opposition. Opposition to the above need must be equal to or greater than the need itself. 3) Action. What the character does, says, thinks, to overcome the opposition. This includes internal and external action.
How your character responds to your plot=the real story. What do they want for themselves and others?
Central needs for youths: Individuality with community or trying to become someone he/she is please with that others can accept while there is opposition.
Nonfiction: The perception of a need, not creating one. Use the point of view in which you can be honest; this is your point of view for someone else’s story. Show why they might have done something. Use Need, Opposition, Action in non-fiction too.
Like a person with chronic pain, we adjust or adapt. In order for it to feel like things are getting worse (rather than adapting to the crisis or pain), conflict has to increase at a significant rate/pace. There are little breathing places of relief along the way before the next stomach punch.
The main character has a need that motivates them into action. If the need isn’t achieved, what will happen? What is at stake?
1) External/Public Stakes: Social, often large scale, plot driven, world ending.
2) Internal/Private Stakes: Poignant, individual, self-worth.
Weave both external and internal together. A stake affecting multiple people will intensify it. (Having to diffuse the bomb before the building explodes.) A stake affecting a significant person will broaden, complicate it. (Having to diffuse the bomb in the building where your wife works.) How far you push depends on the story/genre you want to tell. Take your characters into places the reader didn’t want to go. Comedy takes pain. Love characters for their flaws. Happiness has to be earned or it is resented. Endings can be win, lose, or draw.Clint had us think of a story idea we wanted to write. Then he asked us to 1. think of an internal stake for the MC and, 2. how can you intensify it? Conflict it of major importance to a story and something I've struggled with. I hope these tips help you as well as me.