The Art Of Creating Conflict In A Story

In real life, we try to avoid conflict, but in a fictional reality, the writer feeds off the conflict that fuels the internal and external actions of the characters and creates tension and suspense. Drama is conflict. Conflict is the heart and soul of screenwriting.

Think of the latest film you saw, book that you read, or play that you watched, and you’ll find that what kept you involved in what happened, and offered a load of suspense, was conflict: there was:

  • A problem that needed to be solved and ultimately resolved
  • Obstacles that had to be overcome
  • Threats to be handled
  • Decisions that needed to be made
  • Challenges had to be confronted and overcome

The ultimate test of all conflicts thrown at the character is whether they require courage. If the character is scared to death to achieve his ultimate desire, then the conflict isn’t big enough, and the audience will be watching the film rather than feeling it.

The conflict your Protagonist faces must be unique, powerful, and emotionally compelling.

It is out of the struggle to find the courage that characters grow, and that films develop its underlying, universal themes.

The anticipation of conflict accounts for even more involvement from the audience.

Fear and suspense grow out of anticipation and danger, worry is the anticipation of loss, and hope is the anticipation of success.

  • Action films and thrillers require physical courage.
  • In comedies, romance, and dramas the heroes must find emotional courage.

It is out of the struggle to find the courage that characters grow, and that films develop their underlying, universal themes.

When you create conflict in your story, it’s like throwing a pebble into a pond, a ripple effect that sets causality (cause and effect) into motion.

The Write Journey course explores different types of conflict, problems of conflict, and tips on creating conflict

Revenant 3

The Revenant is a spiritual odyssey into humanity and a man’s soul. What begins as a relentless quest for revenge becomes a heroic saga against all odds towards home and redemption. That emotionally charged confrontation with mortality also becomes entwined with an unusual father-son love story: that of a man who in his moment of loss becomes more devoted to life than ever.


Abraham is a dreamer who wishes to rise above his station in life and make his mark on the world, but the harsh realities of his dire circumstances becomes the deterrent to his happiness. Jans Rautenbach takes us into the intimate spaces of these derelict lives, where happiness and love blossom and combat the harsh reality of outsiders who have no understanding of how difficult it is to be dirt poor.


Although The Danish Girl is set in 1926, nothing has really changed in our world where transgender people are still frowned upon, and where those who want to celebrate their unique individualism are regarded as outcasts whose outcry for compassion is severely ignored. The Danish Girl boldly celebrates the valour of those who embrace their true identity and are not shamed of who they are, and salutes those whose kind-heartedness makes the world a place everyone wants to share equally.


Batman and Superman.  Gotham and Metropolis.  Lex Luthor, Doomsday and—for the first time ever on the big screen—Wonder Woman.  With its stellar lineup of heroes and villains and bigger and better battles with even more at stake than the destruction of the Earth, Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an epic Super Hero journey like no other. Pit the two greatest heroes in the world against each other and the unthinkable becomes inevitable in the form of a truly seismic clash: Batman, the underground vigilante, a knight in the darkness, and Superman, the unbeatable alien in the sky—who can possibly win such a war?

Left to right: Pablo Schreiber plays Kris "Tanto" Paronto and David Denman plays Dave "Boon" Benton in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi from Paramount Pictures and 3 Arts Entertainment / Bay Films in theatres January 15, 2016.

The heated fury of fictional reality explodes dramatically in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Michael Bay’s profound exploration of warfare that is a brutal and hard-core assault on the senses. Loaded with suspense, Bay intimately takes us behind the headlines of what happened on the 1st Anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi, when Libyan militants attacked six American CIA contractors who defended a U.S. diplomatic outpost.


Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, Room is a unique and touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child. After 5-year- old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) escape from the solitary, locked, 10”x10” room that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world. As he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that this new adventure brings, he holds tight to the one thing that matters most of all—his special bond with his loving and devoted Ma.


Written and directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, Charlie St Cloud), and based on the best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fresh twist on Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. A mysterious plague has fallen upon 19th century England. The land is overrun with the undead, upending genteel Victorian mores and turning the bucolic English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe and friends can instantly turn into ravenous and wild foes. Enter feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet, a master of martial arts and weaponry, independent, clear-eyed and strong-willed.  The deadly circumstances of the day force her into an alliance with Mr. Darcy, a handsome but arrogant gentleman whom she dislikes intensely but has grudging respect for his prodigious skills as a zombie killer.


In the masterful Freeheld, decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard-earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie (Ellen Page). However the county officials, Freeholders, prevent Laurel from doing this. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), and activist Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell) unite in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality. This vitally relevant and endearing story is brought to life as both a riveting board-room procedural and a nuanced story of unanticipated, irresistible love overcoming intolerance, directed by Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas), based on the Oscar-winning short documentary and adapted by the writer of Philadelphia, Ron Nyswaner.