Inherent Conflict

Think about your movie idea and ask if there’s inherent conflict right from the start. For example, in “Warrior,” the hero’s father trains him to fight in a mixed martial arts tournament. The inherent conflict is that the hero reaches the championship, only to face his own brother. Whether you like martial arts action films or not, the inherent conflict right away makes you want to know how it turns out.

There’s a low-budget horror movie called “The Purge,” which is about a 12 hour period once a year when the American government lets anyone commit any crime without punishment as a way to release their violent tendencies. So the movie is about the hero trying to survive this 12 hour purge. That’s conflict right there.

Many story ideas fail because they lack such inherent conflict right in the story idea. Imagine if someone told you they were writing a screenplay about the day in the life of a radio disc jockey. No inherent conflict there, so the story already sounds dull. Fix this by saying that a radio disc jockey goes on the air and a terrorist group contacts him and tells him what they’re going to do before they actually do it. Now this radio disc jockey is suddenly caught between the police who want to catch the terrorists, and the terrorists who want to use the radio disc jockey as their unofficial spokesperson.

Suppose the terrorists have kidnapped the radio disc jockey’s family and want him to release coded messages to set off terrorist attacks around the city. Now the radio disc jockey has inherent conflict because he wants to save his family but he’s trapped in the radio station booth, forced to send out coded messages to terrorist groups or they’ll kill his family. Now the story sounds a whole lot more interesting than just a day in the life of a radio disc jockey.

Think about how you can inject inherent conflict into your story. “The Life of Pi” is about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a man-eating tiger. That’s huge inherent conflict right there. The more interesting you can make your inherent conflict in your story, the more interesting your story will be right from the start.

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