Saturday, March 23, 2013

Classic Plot Conflicts


The plot of the story is the path the action takes. All plot revolves around conflict. Each protagonist wants something. He struggles to achieve his goals. He may struggle against an external force or an internal force. Who he is under pressure from is where the plot comes in. Each type of conflict leads to a different type of story.


  1. Man vs. Nature

When man is in conflict with nature, he is trying to survive. There is some kind of natural disaster. An example of this plot can be found in the movie, The Perfect Storm. The fishermen ignore the storm warnings and then have to deal with the fury of nature. The element of this plot that makes it interesting is that there is no conscious thought on the part of nature. The events just happen.

  1. Man vs. Man

When a man (hero) is in conflict with another man (villain), all kinds of interesting things can happen. Both sides of the conflict can make choices and changes to the plot line. Each person has motivations and desires.

  1. Man vs. Machines/Technology

Man is the instrument of his own destruction. Man has created something that comes back to create conflict. A great example of this is Battle Star Galactica. Those Cylons really want to create a bit of conflict. 

  1. Man vs. The Supernatural

Any time you have a ghost, vampire, monster, you have man vs. the supernatural. A normal man has to battle a being that has superhuman abilities. The rules for this conflict must be set up within the story. As long as the author doesn’t violate his own rules, the story flows. There must be rules and the supernatural being must have a weakness or there is no hope for the protagonist to succeed. Examples of this fatal flaw in the supernatural being would be wooden stakes or silver bullets.

  1. Man vs. Self

This plot is internally focused. The protagonist is in conflict with some aspect of himself. The hero is going through a transformation and needs to change his outlook or way of thinking. This conflict takes place within the character’s mind. The character in this plot usually has major changes happen in his outlook on life. A good example of this one would be Batman. He’s really conflicted in a Dark Knight kind of way.

  1. Man vs. God/Religion

When man has conflict with his religion, it can be a version of man against society. Religion is a manifestation of the societal norms. The conflict can bring in a supernatural aspect if it brings in a god or other spiritual supernatural being. The Iliad and the Odyssey are examples of this type of conflict.


Friday, March 1, 2013

The Villain

We all know the villain as the opposite of the hero, but what does that really mean? Is a villain inherently evil? Must they always do the wrong thing? How does an author create valid and believable antagonists?
The first thing to consider is that the villain doesn’t think of themselves as evil or bad. They are just reacting to their environment and making judgments about the actions that will create the outcomes that they desire. A villain is the hero of his own story. He doesn’t know that he is the villain. He has valid reasons for doing the things that he does.
A true villain is a wounded human being who has goals and aspirations that make sense. A monster isn’t born; he is made. Examples of this abound, Darth Vader was once Anikan Skywalker. His wounds created his decent into immorality. He had his reasons.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature is made from recycled parts. How could he be anything but ugly? However, that was only his outward appearance. Inside, he was innocent and curious. He had the desire to connect with others. Unfortunately, Victor Frankenstein rejected his creation. Victor introduced the wounds to the creature’s spirit that created the villain. The creature wanted nothing more than to be loved; that unrelenting desire is what drives the story.
He doesn’t have to be more intelligent or stronger than the hero. Making a mistake is where he will fail and the hero will prevail-or not. In Frankenstein, the creature is stronger, faster, and arguably more intelligent than Victor. The creature aka villain wants a partner for his life and to live in isolation and peace. He does evil and immoral things to reach that end.
Memorable villains are always complex creations. They have desires and goals that arise from their wounded spirits. Are you the hero or the villain? Only the end of the story can tell.