In writing your screenplay or novel or play, you must have a star. This is the person who fascinates you enough to write all those countless words. When we have a tightly written manuscript, it means we have become fascinated with a certain person in such a way that we actually live through that character.
What do we mean by “live?”
To live in a fictitious or real word our daily bread is “conflict” or in the writing jargon, what we call plot. This simply means that two people are at odds over a certain situation. It can be little or big—but a battle is there nonetheless. The two people can argue over which movie to go see or which restaurant to visit or maybe your landlord wants his rent and you don’t have the money to pay him.
You can climb higher on the conflict ladder and that’s where two people are in a life and death struggle or clash. You certainly don’t want to go to see a film or read a book where everyone is in complete harmony and peace with one another. How boring that would be. Even Walt Disney films have tons of conflict in them. The wolf versus the three little pigs, for example. He wants to eat them and to do that he has to blow their houses down.
Conflict, as I have mentioned, is just another name for plot. Thus in a sense, we could go further by saying that the word plot is called “entertainment.” It is why we spend our money. We love nothing more than dissention. The higher the dissention, the more interested we become. We have names for each of the two opposing people involved: Protagonist or our hero, who generally represents the one of the two we’re rooting for; Antagonist who is the rival or the one we call the villain or heavy.
The battle these two wage against one another is based on a series of choices. In dealing with the bad guy, the good guy has to always come up with a series of choices: diplomacy, logic or as a last resort war The bad guy also has a choice of dealing with the good guy: shooting him, throwing him off a cliff, tying him up. Choices on both sides and carrying them out make up your storyline. The more difficult the choices, the more you get involved in the story. You proceed like this for most of your tale until you tease us by making it look like the bad guy is about to win. Then all of a sudden due to some ingenious choice, the good guy wins and vanquishes the bad guy. The end.
So, there you have the writing profession in a nutshell. This brings us to the specific category known as a “good writer.” This is a person who can hold you on the edge of your seat via interesting choices. You can’t put the book down or you are completely enthralled by the film. This means you’ve done your job well. Your characters have had to deal with a ton of conflict in their personal lives and have had to make many interesting choices for good or bad.
Writers who have lived lives full of choices are able to pass those moments along to us in a realistic way. In other words, they have the “life experience” to pass them along in a meaningful way. These are writers who are thought of as gifted. More than likely though, life has been a big hors d’oeuvre tray to them. They have actually tasted life. Bad writers dream of life and philosophize about it. Boring. They are trying to impress you by using big, rarely-used words and long, complicated sentences. They are snobs and intellectuals who are peddling more sizzle than steak. These people hang out more in writer’s workshops than in life’s alleyways. Conflict to them is something to avoid at all cost. Unfortunately tons of them are out there clogging the works for real writers.
Most good writers don’t have “writer’s block.” They realize that if their project becomes sluggish , they should just add some more conflict. Agatha Christie said that in her writing if things slowed down, she always introduced another murder.
Bad writers in the first place are not friends with conflict and, therefore, always seem to be experiencing writer’s block. Now, you see why. They haven’t had enough conflict in their lives to be able realistically to relate it to others.
I heartedly recommend you “live” a lot if you intend to write. It will not only fill up your years with fun but could even fill up your pocketbook. Cheers!