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08/11/2001 - Conflict!

Teleplay Tips & Tricks


In real life human beings strive to attain warm, comforting relationships. Friendships that involve supporting each other emotionally. However, I learned early on in my career that having your characters respond to each other this way on film or tape is-boring.

In comedy, sensitive people watching out for each other is death. Humor comes out of wit, out of people trading wiseass remarks, zinging each other whenever they can. In drama, the best way to get story points across is through conflict. Nothing puts a viewer to sleep like watching two characters tell each "the plan." But if those same two characters disagree on the nature and efficacy of the plan and argue about it, then the viewer will watch, wondering who's going to "win." The truth is that the writer wins, by keeping everyone's attention.

Think I'm being negative? That I'm telling you that all your characters have to dislike each other? That's not it at all. Think of all the buddy movies you've watched and loved. Have there ever been two characters who cared about each other more than Butch and Sundance? But they hid their feelings beneath their quips. The same for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Wouldn't you rather watch those three friends have at each other than be in a room with Janeway and are nodding crew?


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