The three ways to create conflict are to fight against the environment, to fight against another person, and to fight against yourself.
Fighting against the environment is fine, such as in “127 Hours,” which is about a man trapped in a canyon. However, just fighting against inanimate objects is kind of dull. Inanimate objects can make a task harder, but conflict is far more interesting when the hero must battle against another person.
Watching two people fight is interesting, but it’s ultimately kind of meaningless. What’s far more interesting is watching a person fight against him or herself.
Every hero needs a fatal flaw and that fatal flaw is responsible for putting that hero in a dead end life. Now the hero must overcome his or her fear of change to get a better life.
So the first and most important battle is that the hero must overcome their own internal struggle. To make this internal struggle visible, the hero needs to constantly run into people that personify the hero’s greatest weakness.
When thinking about your hero, clearly identify that fatal flaw. Then you can use that fatal flaw to define the following:
- Creates the hero’s dead end life in the beginning
- Defines the villain
- Defines the mentor’s lesson to the hero
- Forces the hero to finally make a choice to abandon their fatal flaw
In “Die Hard,” John Mcclane’s fatal flaw is arrogance, and that’s what led to his temporary separation from his wife.
Not surprisingly, the villain, Hans the terrorist leader, is also arrogant. That makes him dangerous and powerful.
John McClane’s mentor, Officer Powell, is a fellow cop who shares his story of accidentally shooting a kid who had a toy gun. That helps John McClane learn that humility can be useful too.
Finally John McClane finally admits to himself and Officer Powell that it’s his own fault for separating from his wife. By admitting this moment, he can now move on from it.
Pick your favorite movie and look for the hero’s fatal flaw. Then see how it defines the villain, the hero’s dead end life, the lesson the mentor teaches the hero, and the final decision the hero needs to make to change and become a better person.