Conflict regarding conflict

So I’m going over the feedback I got from my first screenplay editor (the second is scheduled for the end of this month) for TreasHu and she talks several places about increasing the conflict.  I’ve read in a number of web pages about conflict being the core of any screenplay (indeed, any novel), but some of her suggestions felt inorganic for the story I intend to tell (note that easily 80% of her suggestions all made instant sense and several had me slapping myself upside the head for failure to do it myself (and another 10%, upon consideration, have persuaded me)).  That caused me to do some research on conflict, and I came across this:

The Most Common Reasons Why Scripts Are Rejected

In it, the author quotes Michelle Tanner:

“Do whatever you can to learn how to write in professional-level compelling conflict. Because without that, you have no shot at making it. Without writing in compelling conflict, you are simply wasting your time.”

That threw me into some deep navel gazing, as I’ve also been struggling with building my ego up enough to advertise for a cinematographer, editor and sound person, all willing to work for free, not to mention perennially putting off working on storyboards and floor plans. Maybe the core of my problem is lack of compelling conflict and my desire to write exactly that is what’s the problem.

Thinking back to responses I got from the other editor I like to work with on previous scripts, I realized she was also strongly urging me to increase conflict.  While some of her suggestions immediately felt organic to the story I wanted to tell, there were cases that I felt went her suggestions went directly contrary to my goals for the stories.

It’s not like there aren’t tons of experimental indie films out there that deliberately break the three-act, tension-filled mold, but if you look at all the movies that make money (meaning, the ones people actually watch), they all follow the same trajectory. While I have no interest in working on a big budget blockbuster with everything riding on a number of long chase scenes or green screen extravaganzas, that doesn’t mean I want to make movies that no one watches. Though I don’t expect anyone to watch TreasHu, that’s because of total lack of promotion, not that it’s boring and no one caring about the characters and story.

I could probably shoe horn myself into the mold of the expected, and possibly even write something I’d be happy with, but if I wind up telling “someone else’s story” instead of mine, perhaps I’ll wind up feeling cheated and unhappy, even if otherwise successful.

That being said, perhaps I’m going against my own advice:

Get those stakes in there, we need to know why the character is in the story. Then put in the obstacles. If it’s effortless for the character to achieve their goals, then you pretty much don’t have any story. How long does it take for someone to describe their idyllic vacation, where all the food was great, no mosquitoes, their significant others got along, etc.? About twenty seconds, right? But those nightmare vacations, those are the ones people want to hear about. The worst to experience have the best stories, right? If your character’s experiences were like the idyllic vacation, you might not have a novel anyone will want to read.

I’m beginning to think that I may not be suited to creating movies/books that people will want to watch/read. I’ve had a number of people complain about my DoaCK novels not having enough conflict, but they’re exactly the stories I wanted to tell. On good days, I just figure I need to find the right audience and I’ll be off to the races.

Then I read something like this:

The Problem with Good People

So now I’m struggling with the very idea of working toward becoming a writer/director.  Some days I feel like I have potential as a writer, then I read about things like conflict and my problems with that. I’m happy focusing on indie films, but I want people to watch them. If I can’t envision a path to create movies that have the potential to be watched nation and world-wide, I don’t know that I want to continue. There are other projects I could spend my time on. Though also long shots, ‘long’ is always relative, and I believe several have the potential to have better statistical payoffs.

I know not to make snap decisions, particularly when I’m feeling down (the wife and I went over our retirement plans this past weekend and I’m reluctantly being persuaded to add another two years (to make it 6) before we call it quits), so I’ll most likely continue pursuing this quixotic dream, possibly even to filming TreasHu as intended, but right now I’m struggling putting my heart into it.

Hopefully, I’ll have my ego patched up again soon and can wipe all this doubt away…

Author: mitusents

Biochemist, MBA, then programmer. Now novelist, screenplay writer and hopefully director. What a strange trip it's been.