Conflicts

Problems:

  1. No Conflict—There are no obstacles to characters’ wants. The obstacles she or he is presented with are easily overcome. The problems are minor and the resulting conflict lacks consequence.
  2. Conflict resolved too quickly—The change the characters present is not believable because it occurs too soon or too easily. The conflict does not sufficiently challenge the characters.
  3. Unfocused conflict—It is unclear what the conflict is about and/or why the characters are involved in it. Perhaps there are too many characters or not enough dialogue.
  4. Conflict does not progress—The central conflict or dramatic action does not effect change in the scene. Change happens independent of the main conflict of the play.

Questions for the Playwright to ask:

  • Does the character have to sacrifice anything to achieve his or her goal? How big a sacrifice?
  • Can you clarify the goal of each character and the obstacles to achieving his or her goals?
  • How did the character change and what initiated the change?
  • What needs to happen between these two characters to make their change believable?
  • Who is this play about?
  • What does this character want?
  • What is stopping this character from getting what he or she wants? (Insisting on one-sentence answers assists in focusing.)
  • What is the conflict in this scene?
  • Why is there a conflict?

Exercises for sharpening conflict skills:

“Problem-solving”

Use the blackboard or a tape recorder to record ideas to develop into a play. Prepare questions that

will provoke discussion and complicate the scenario. Creating “out loud” is often more involving for the

imagination. (NOTE: Questions can make each scenario come alive. “And then what happened?” is the

most-asked question in any story!) Some ideas:

  • Darnell, who is ten years old, is constantly being harassed by Reed, an eleven-year-old bully. Reed has even been extorting money from Darnell. What can Darnell do to stop Reed from harassing him?
  • Elizabeth’s parents are going away for a three-day weekend. Although Elizabeth has a license, her parents do not want her to drive while they are away. What does Elizabeth do when her boyfriend comes over and wants to go out with her?
  • Ellis is the fourth-grade clown. He will do anything for a laugh. Some of his classmates love him for it, others hate him for it. Underneath, Ellis is very lonely and has no real friends. One day, a new boy, James, comes to town. Immediately, no one (including Ellis) likes him. One day Ellis and James meet by chance in the park. No one else is around. What happens?
  • Eddie, an eighth-grader in middle school, is suddenly stricken with love for Sonya, a ninth-grader in high school who hardly notices him at all. Eddie desperately wants to go out with Sonya, but is nervous and afraid that he will be rejected. What does he do? Who, if anyone, does he elicit help from?
  • Bob and Barbara who are good friends, go out shopping for a birthday present for another friend; but they both want to buy the same gift. What happens?
  • Jill and Joe, who are friends, are both suspended from school for the same reason. What happens when they go home and tell their respective parents? Do they both tell the same story?
  • Tammy likes Tom, a boy in her class. She wants to ask him to have dinner at her house, but she is afraid he will say “no”. What happens?
  • Steve wants Susan to go to a rock concert with him, but Susan’s father doesn’t think she should go. Why? What happens?
  • Lee builds a rocket in the family garage. What happens when it is stolen? Who stole it?
  • Chris finds a magic lantern and is granted three wishes. What happens when the first wish brings misfortune?
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