Three Areas of Conflict

Syd Field first described the three areas of conflict your main character is dealing with, and I’ve gone back to this concept over and over again, particularly in crafting a good CENTRAL QUESTION for my stories.  (The Central Question is the question that once it’s answered definitively “yes” or “no” the movie is over.)

These three areas of conflict are:

  • PROFESSIONAL — That which is evident to everyone around your main character.
  • PERSONAL — That which is evident to only those closest to your main character.
  • PRIVATE — That which only your main character really knows.

So, in STAR WARS the Central Question is “Will Luke save the Princess, destroy the Deathstar, and become a Jedi like his father.”  Destroying the Deathstar is his professional goal.  Saving the Princess is his personal goal.  Becoming a Jedi like his father is his private goal.

A more recent example is QUANTUM OF SOLACE.  The Central Question is “Will Bond defeat the plans of the Dominic Greene (professional), keep Camille safe as she seeks revenge (personal), and avenge the death of his girlfriend Vesper Lynd (private).”

The closer you can resolve all three of these areas of conflict to each other, the tighter and more satisfying the conclusion of your stories will be.

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3 Responses to “Three Areas of Conflict”

  1. Brian B. October 19, 2009 at 6:01 pm #

    Fantastic.

  2. Matthew Fredrick November 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    After reading this I literally had an epiphany. Genius. With this motivation in the main characters they will increasingly become dynamic and amazing. Simply fantastic.

  3. Susan Nwokedi January 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    This is awesome! I just finished production one of my features “Mind of the Enemy” in West Africa. Reading this makes me smile because my story went through these questions. Though hard, it made my story tighter and the end more satisfying. I can’t wait to get and start using my Contour…it would make it so much quicker for me to crank out tightly written stories. Excellent.

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