Conflict and the promise of

November 2, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Okay, having tackled the need for

  • a balance in interior and exterior scenes throughout the screenplay
  • the protagonist to feature in the majority of the scenes because it’s their story (and)
  • crafting scenes so that there is a ‘see-saw’ effect between the emotional highs and lows from one to the next

…we turn our attention to this week’s post about how every scene should provide the opportunity for  ‘Conflict’ or –  at the very least –  the promise of conflict in your screenplay.’

What do I mean?

Well, all screenplays have differing degrees of conflict within them – sometimes the conflict is obvious as in the action feature ‘Die Hard’ where policeman John McLean single- handedly takes on Hans Gruber and his team of terrorists who have hijacked building and staff in an audacious attempt to rob the company of its financial assets.

Now, while a lot of the scenes are filled with conflict and action as McLean tries to break out then takes on the terrorists, there are other scenes where he is reflective. In one scene, McLean takes refuge in a washroom to nurse his wounds. In there he talks by phone with the police officer stationed outside the building and asks him that should he die, could he find his wife Holly and tell her he loved her. Promise made, the officer updates McLean on an ill-thought out plan hatched by the inexperienced officer-in-charge who intends to storm the building with the likely result that all the hostages will be killed or injured.

Okay, the promise of conflict is seen in that

  1. McLean is wounded and on the run
  2. He’s pretty sure he won’t make it out alive
  3. He’s just been informed that the police are preparing to storm the building with the result that the terrorists will kill hostages of which his wife might be one of them.

The scene is in a washroom yet by the end of it our senses are heightened by the new predicament facing John McLean who must continue on or risk his wife being killed.

And the same is true for dramas such as Dangerous Liaisons where John Malkowich as Vicomte de Valmont finds himself in an impossible situation as he attempts to seduce one woman in order to secure another. In this, the threat of blackmail, seduction, honour, death, revenge and jealousy are played out in the civil and gentile world of aristocracy. Yes, conflict and tragedy will result by the end but in-between, the audience will watch as dalliances, secret love letters, manipulation and seduction between those in the love triangle  will build towards a crescendo in a way which promises drama and conflict right up to the end.

In summary – with the exception of transitional settings – conflict (or the promise of it) should find itself in every scene.  If it is not, the story will be boring. Indeed, as seen, even action thrillers Die Hard required moments to breathe and reflect in order to reset and go again. Til next time – think conflict when you write your scenes!

ps find a breakdown of the scene template by clicking here

pls The individualised scene templates explanations can be found by scrolling back from this week’s post,


Comments are closed.