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Story Board Lecture 1: Conflict

Discussion in 'Story Board Workshops' started by Matthew Williams, Jun 7, 2004.

  1. Matthew Williams

    Matthew Williams Owns A Homey The Clown Shirt
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    Hello! Welcome to the first Story Board Workshop. You may be familiar with the Drawing Board Workshops – the place for aspiring artists to get familiarized with the basics of drawing. We’re here for a similar reason – to help aspiring new writers to better themselves by teaching them new writing skills.

    We’ll get to the cool stuff – scripts, characters, original stories – in a few weeks. But I figure, it’s best to start off with the basics. To have a good story, you must first have an idea. It can be anything at all. Maybe you want to write a story about werewolves, or Batman. Maybe you have a fully developed universe that sprung up in your mind about something. An idea can be anything.

    But for that idea to become a story, yes, you should plan it out, at least a little bit, in advance. It’s also good to understand the things that make stories, well… stories. This is where this lesson comes in. In the next few weeks you’ll learn about character, plot, and other things, but let’s start with the most important part of a story, any story. That important part is conflict.

    So what is conflict? Conflict is the driving force of any story. Conflict can be something as simple as Sherlock Holmes against his arch-nemesis, Moriarty. Or it can be something more complex, like a person trying to free himself from an unjust society. But it really does not get more complex than that.

    Simply defined, conflict is what happens when the central character of the story, the protagonist, faces an obstacle – the antagonist – that he or she must overcome in order to reach his or her desired goal.

    To put an example in terms… let’s use a Charlie Brown analogy. I think you all know of the classic “football kicking” strips.

    The protagonist here is Charlie Brown. He wants to kick the football, and he wants to kick it good.

    The antagonist? Lucy. Lucy is holding the football in order for Charlie Brown to kick it. She never ever lets him – she loves to pull the football away at the last possible moment so poor Charlie Brown can fall flat on his back.

    So to use our example – Charlie Brown is in conflict with Lucy, because she is keeping Charlie Brown from successfully kicking the football. Of course it’s a bit more complicated – later strips changed the conflict to be more internal – but as a basic example, it’s Charlie Brown vs. Lucy.

    But it’s a bit more complicated than that, conflict. There are three different types of conflict, one you may see more often than another.



    1.) Person vs. Self
    This is internal conflict. Hamlet is basically the most famous example of this. To boil it down into plain English, Hamlet is a five-act play that centers on a guy who can’t decide whether he wants to kill his uncle or not. It’s the classic example of a man fighting his own inner doubts and ideas in order to achieve his goal – avenging his father’s death.

    Internal conflict can be used in different ways. A person could be battling an inner disease, or something such as alcoholism. In each case, it’s something internal – either something set in the mind, or ravaging the body – that drives the story.

    2.) Person vs. Society
    This is more external conflict, but not as external as number 3. The best example I can think of is the inaugural commercial for Apple’s Macintosh. That features a young lady racing down a corridor to destroy the mind-controlling force that is telling its spellbound servants what to do. Sure, it’s short – only a minute – but it’s simple enough that it gets the point across. The lady is acting out against society, eager to show everyone else that they are actually free men and women – and to do that, she must show them by destroying the very force that is telling them that individuality is bad.

    Other examples include stories that involve peer pressure, cliques, people trying to fight anorexia… a number of problems we face in everyday society.

    3.) Person vs. Person
    99% of the time, this is what you’ll be writing. It’s by far the most common. You have James Bond and Goldfinger, you have Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd, you’d even have groups like GI Joe fighting Cobra. It’s hero vs. villain – protagonist vs. antagonist.

    Of course, it doesn’t have to rely on fisticuffs and violence, nor does it have to be all that serious. It can be as simple as an employee fighting his boss for a raise, or competing with others in a sport. But again, this is by far the most common.

    There have been stories that have combined all three, but kept one type of conflict at the center. The original Star Wars trilogy, for example, has Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader, which is the core conflict of the films. However, it also has the Rebels vs. The Empire (person vs. society) and the Dark/Light sides of the force serve to illustrate the internal conflict. For our sake, just stick to one.

    So that’s conflict. Do you have any insights on it?
     
  2. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    If I remember correctly, I remember something about "Person vs. Environment". It's similiar to "Person vs. Society", but it doesn't simply focus on people as a whole, but rather anywhere in which the protagonist is currently residing. I've seen a few stories that were based on the character surviving in the wilderness, and I'm assuming that those brands of stories wouldn't really fit in the criteria of any of the three types already listed.

    Just felt like mentioning that. >disappears<
     
  3. Matthew Williams

    Matthew Williams Owns A Homey The Clown Shirt
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    hmm - part of me actually thinks you can classify that in "person vs. society", or that it's a better way to classify "person vs. society" because it covers that.

    Thanks for mentioning it. :)
     
  4. Eddie G.

    Eddie G. Former Wolf/Writer.

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    I always sort of felt that Person vs. Enviorment stories could be considered Person vs. Self. Stories in which the person is fighting an animal is the same as Person vs. Person. However I don't see stories where a person trying to survive the cold or a tornado is in conflict or fighting the cold or tornado but their own vulnerability and weakness. I believe this because one can never overcome the situation, but can become a stronger person to survive the situation.
     
  5. TimTwoFace

    TimTwoFace Mod, and Minotaur Bait
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    I agree with SK and Blue Wolf..."Person vs the Environment" was a category I always learned going through school, too. It didn't necessarily mean conflict with the wilderness per se (though that'd be a very literal and still notable translation), but just with your non-human surroundings, the supernatural, or even something as inanimate as an outdated law.

    Either way, they're all conflicts and all are necessary in fiction. Without conflict, fiction gets really boring really fast.

    -Tim
     

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