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Sell Your Story Through Character Conflict

Tearing money

Conflict Sells

The noted teacher and dramatist, Lagos Egri, provides some sage advice on the subject of character conflict and how to sell your story premise and drive your story forward.

Remembering that the premise is a microscopic form of the story itself, Egri suggests we formulate our premise and start our story at a crisis point, which will be the turning point in our main character’s life.

In Ghosts, by Ibsen, for example, the basic idea is heredity. The play grew out of a Biblical quotation, which is the premise: “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.” Every action, every bit of dialogue, every conflict in the play, arises out of this premise.

Egri states that the correct way to start a story is to involve your main character in conflict. Conflict not only drives the story forward, but it is the quickest way of revealing character in the shortest time.

Forcing opposing characters together is the best way of establishing conflict. Opposing characters should be militant, passionate, and active about their positions. Egri calls this process orchestration.

For example:

Optimist vs. pessimist

Miser vs. spendthrift

Honest vs. dishonest

Loyal vs. disloyal

Believer vs. non-believer

Agapi vs. Erotas

Militantly opposing characters make conflict inevitable. Two perfectly orchestrated characters will oppose, or, perhaps, even destroy each, other depending on circumstances, turning your story into a page turner.

Although opposing characters form the foundation of any good story, you should, before you start, determine why one simply cannot walk out on the other, while the conflict rages. Determine the precise nature of the unbreakable bond that keeps them together until the climax: is it revenge, hate, jealousy, pain?

Lastly, remembering that the premise is a microscopic form of the story itself, you should formulate your premise at a crisis point, which will be the turning point in your main character’s life.

Summary

Pit two actively opposing types of characters against one another—characters that are forced together in an unbreakable union, and as they struggle to break their bonds, they will spontaneously generate rising conflict and create the story in the process.

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Image: Tax Credits
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