Everything is conflict. Nothing should ever come easy. One of the best ways to create conflict is to put tow characters in direct opposition to each other where only one of them can possibly win.
Conflict is the lifeblood of any story. As a general rule, nothing should ever come easy to anyone, even the villains. If your hero wants to catch a cab, make him work for it. Have another character want to fight for that same cab. If you put two characters in opposition for the same goal, you’ll automatically generate conflict because only one of them can ever win, and audiences will always wait to see who wins in the end.
Here’s one way to generate conflict. First, decide how you want your character to succeed. For example, let’s say you want your hero to defeat the villain by pushing him off a cliff. Now come up with an alternate way for the hero to try to defeat the villain, such as shooting him with a gun. Now you build up the anticipation that your hero is going to shoot the villain. Show the hero getting a gun, show the hero practicing at the target range, and then show the hero loading the gun and tucking it in his pants to face the villain. Then show the hero pulling out the gun, the villain knocking it out of his hands, and the gun tumbling off the edge of the cliff.
Now your audience is going to wonder, “Uh oh, what’s the hero going to do now?”
Of course, as the screenwriter, you knew all along that the hero was going to push the villain off the edge of the cliff, but you created a diversionary method to throw the audience off the track and really build suspense. Now when your hero shoves the villain over the edge of the cliff, your audience will think, “Wow, the hero improvised that ending.” In reality, that was the ending you wanted all along.
Here’s what happens if you don’t use this method. You have your hero attack the villain and the hero pushes the villain off the edge of the cliff. End of story.
Boring. It’s too direct and nothing really happens. The hero has a plan, the hero executes the plan, and the plan works. What you really want is for the hero to have a plan, execute the plan, and have the plan NOT work. Now what’s the hero going to do?
The trick in combining your phony plan with your real plan is to make sure your real plan is part of the story. For example, in the 1995 movie, “The Net,” Sandra Bullock plays a computer hacker. At the end when the villain is coming to get her, she knocks him out with a fire extinguisher.
How does a fire extinguisher have anything to do with computer hacking? Even worse, it’s not like the movie foreshadowed the idea that Sandra Bullock weight lifts using fire extinguishers or anything at all. Just out of the blue, she grabs a fire extinguisher, conks the guy on the head, end of story.
Don’t let your story do this. Always create a real solution for your hero and a phony solution that you want the audience to think is the only possible solution. Then when the hero’s phony solution doesn’t work, the audience will be dying fro the suspense. Then you pull out your real solution and fool the audience.