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The Power of Story: Conflict

Nothing moves a story forward like conflict. Without conflict, your story is dead. -Robert McKee (paraphrased) (view interview segment here).

Why is that? Why are we drawn to conflict. At best, I can only guess that it has to do with our human experience. Conflict is everywhere. Whether small or large, we are constantly encountering conflict. Conflict can come in the form of losing your keys, a verbal argument, or a nuclear warhead. Do I invest in this stock or that stock? Can I eat this food or will my blood sugar spike too high? Should I ask her out or will I get rejected? Conflict is everywhere and it can take different forms. Let's look at one of my favorite examples of internal conflict, Rocky Balboa. An insecure, poor, yet humble guy who traverses the rough city streets of Philadelphia by day collecting money for a loan shark and boxes for peanuts in a local run-down club by night. While very capable and passionate, he has never had "lady luck in his corner," as his loan shark boss says, until one day he is offered a chance to fight Apollo Creed in a championship bout for the title belt. He jumps right into the opportunity with zeal, right?

Rocky rejects offer to fight Apollo Creed

No. He rejects the offer, initially, because he is insecure. Bingo - internal conflict. When he eventually accepts the fight, we watch on the edge of our seats to see if he wins? No. We watch to see if he overcomes his insecurity and "goes the distance." We can all relate to insecurity. The moment he rejects the offer to fight Apollo our interest peaks and we are now in his corner (pun intended). An example of external conflict - In Braveheart, while William Wallace wrestles with the murder of his wife and the motives that drive him, he must still face the external conflict in front of him - the oppression of his people and freeing them from the grasp of English rule. Why we are drawn to conflict? I am only at the mercy of my suspicions. But I do know we are drawn. And at the center of every story is conflict. And nothing moves story forward like conflict. What are some of your favorite examples of internal and/or external conflict in stories?

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