CONFLICT IS EVERYTHING.
“The moment two characters agree on something, it’s boring” - Richard Walter. When you’re the writer, you are responsible for making every single moment precious, fun, and exciting. The best way forward is to remember that absolutely everything in a story stems from conflict.
Two guys in a little restaurant, having coffee, talking about their kids (boring)
But the coffee shop is ON FIRE!!! (OK, what else?)
All the exits are blocked (big problem - must solve)
Remember that conversation about the kids? One of them is a firefighter! (applies to the problem!)
And he’s actually supposed to be here but running late (help is on the way!)
But the fire’s closing in (ticking clock!! They’re all gonna die!!)
And the scene just writes itself! Not every story is going to be wrapped around something as exciting as a fire or a giant monster…some stories demand subtlety, and a lot of young filmmakers prefer the talky, talky character dramas because that’s the kind of award-winning movie they want to make. But these are much harder to write - because conflict is not optional, and you have to be much more conscious of making it happen.
So let’s go back to the coffee shop:
Two guys in a little restaurant, having coffee (boring)
One of them has a theory on the meaning of life (unfortunately, also boring)
The second counters with a theory on aging (still boring)
The first gets a call from his wife - there’s going to be a new grandchild (SoOoOo boring)
Well what’s wrong? We’re being philosophical, we’re being realistic, we’re speaking to the human experience! But there’s no conflict…try again:
Two guys having coffee (boring)
One has a theory on the meaning of life (still boring)
Second says “That’s a load of crap!” (wait…why?)
“You’ve never been able to handle the way life really is, that’s why your wife left you” (harsh!)
“My wife left because YOU told her I was sleeping around!!” (why are they friends!?)
Still subtle, philosophical, about real people living real lives…but packed with tension and desire and needs. If you’re not telling a story about desperate people with desperate desires that they can taste every minute of every day, tell a different story.
Whatever it is, however it’s supposed to go - never, ever, EVER forget about conflict.