These occasional blog entries will focus from time to time on the single biggest issue plaguing storytellers: not enough conflict flowing through every moment of the tale being told. Every fiber of your story ought to be infused with conflict of some kind. Without it, you really have not much that will engage the audience. It is important enough of a topic that I will be returning to it somewhat regularly.
Here is why: conflict is nothing less than the foundation of all drama. It is the one thing that no one wants in their life. Yet it is the one indispensable element of every story.
I know some people think conflict means fighting. Of course, it does. But conflict means so much more than soldiers kicking the crud out of one another during the heat of war. It means more than boxers duking it out in the ring. It goes far beyond two people screaming at each other over their differences of opinion. Conflict is all of those, but it is also found in many more moments you may not have considered as “conflicted.”
Conflict includes a parent who is unable to calm a yowling baby. It includes a locked door that a character cannot open. Conflict means a waiter screwing up an order. Being stuck in traffic when you are late is a kind of conflict. A character who can’t make up his mind about what to wear is in conflict with himself. Subtler conflicts such as these are limitless.
Musical storytelling is no different than any other kind of storytelling. Your story needs to be eyeball deep in conflict.
Stories are all about a character seeking a goal of some kind. So, here is a way of thinking about how to inject conflict into every scene in your show. It comes courtesy of one of the best teachers of story that I know, Professor Hal Ackerman, who teaches screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and TV. Conflict is equal to a goal, an obstacle, and an unwillingness to compromise. That is simple to say, but ever so difficult to get right.
Remember this: no conflict means no story about which anyone will care. Fill your stories full of conflict and you stand a great chance that the audience will be yours.