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When Creating Conflict, Context Is Everything

Make no assumptions with conflict, your context is your own.

Working with writers new to Dramatica, one thing stands out: the lack of context in creating conflict. Make no mistake: There is no conflict without context. Just because you think everyone needs to breathe in order to live doesn't mean everyone shares the same thought. To someone who wants to die, breathing is the furthest thing from their mind. Assuming that everyone sees the lack of breathing as a problem is an assumption that weakens your writing.

One student this week wrote about a character who was insecure, his confidence was in tatters, and his self-esteem wrecked. In fact, those were the encodings for this character's Domain, Concern and Issue:

  • Domain (Fixed Attitude): Raphe is very insecure in the world
  • Concern (Memories): Raphe has no memory of his parents and feels alone. His confidence is in tatters.
  • Issue (Suspicion): Moving from town to town has made Raphe suspicious of what the other kids think of him. His self-esteem is wrecked.

On the surface it seems like these are good encodings. Feeling insecure and having low self-esteem sound like problems to me.

But they aren't.

To someone who wants to feel sorry for themselves they’re the greatest thing in the world. Conflict is all about defining the context. When encoding Story Points like Domain, Concern, and Issue one must include the context.

For instance: Rafe has no memory of his parents, and to someone who prides himself on having a photographic memory this inability to access a visual recollection of their faces drives him to seek extraction services from psychics who take advantage of him and drug dealers who only want to keep him hooked on mind-altering drugs. Engaging with these crooks leaves his confidence in tatters.

Now we have the inklings of a story.