What makes a story?
This is an argument of old debated by the classical heads of storytelling and the young pups of our new age of entertainment.
A wise woman once told me, a story is a story is a story.
Not her, I've never met her a day in my life. She looks wise though, so imagine a woman that looks nothing like the one above (but still wise) and you probably still won't be able to picture the woman I'm talking about as you haven't met her. So, there was no real point of me putting a picture of a random wise looking woman there just to illustrate my point of a woman full of wisdom. Potentially, you could have conjured that all up by yourself with your God given imagination from just my words. I guess we'll never know now.
After reading the wise woman's words if you're anything like me you probably furrowed your brow and thought 'well, that's some fresh pretentious horse manure'. Obviously said in a less pretentious horse manurey (yes, I just made up a word) way.
If we take a step back and take the furrow out of our brow then we will realise that she had an amazing point. Every good story no matter the genre or the subject matter is about conflict, so it is possible to make such a sweeping generalisation about every 'good' story out there.
I hear your brow furrow once again and you say who died and made you the arbitrator of what constitutes as 'good' storytelling.
Well, you did.
Each and everyone of us are that arbitrator. I challenge you to sit down for an hour and a half and watch a random man or woman aimlessly wander around a room or any place and not fall asleep.
I know there will be at least one person 'just to prove a point' who will do it, well knock yourself out and suffer through that.
Conflict is what sparks our interest, desires, empathy, sympathy to love or hate that character. Conflict is what draws us into those intense scenes and causes our heart rate to increase in fear or anticipation. Without it we're just watching a random man or woman aimlessly wander around a place. With it we are watching a pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; whole misadventured piteous overthrows do with their death bury their parents' strife. Or, Liam Neeson not knowing who people are but threatening to not let that get in the way of him finding them and killing them and thirty of their armed, mean and more importantly much younger and nimble friends.
We don't question that though because we are so engrossed in the conflict, the journey that this one man has to take and all the many obstacles this 60+ plus year old has to overcome - while only at best suffering a flesh wound - to save his daughter. Who after three films we can only be left with the conclusion that she's actively going out of her way to get kidnapped. Either that or she has zero sense of danger, which is kinda weird seems that her dads this super protective spy, unbreakable, 60+ year old ninja American person.
My point being, to effectively create an engaging piece of work whether that is a script, poetry and or art there has to be some form of conflict. Your job as a creative is to create as much conflict as possible for your subject at every turn, think how can I create an obstacle for them or it to navigate. No one wants to watch a man or woman wander aimlessly around a place.
For writers, here are the four most important questions you should be asking yourself throughout every scene that you write.
What do they want?
Why can't they have it?
What are they going to do to get it?
Why haven't I submitted my film to Bute Street or marked April 2021 (actual days TBC) as 'Bute Street Day'?