http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHxReKXwcqo&feature=relatedThis week, Dancing with the Stars had their Personal Stories week. This is the part of the competition where each of the stars puts into dance one of their most memorable experiences. For this season, they were asked to pick a year in their lives that had the most impact for them.
The stories are always touching and yes, I’m often left sniffling away on the couch (just check out Katherine Jenkins’ story in the video). The stories grab me, and with the emotional set-up in place, the music and choreography give my heart strings that extra tug over the edge.
On the surface, you’d think the emotion is what carries each story. But dig deeper. The real catalyst for such touching tales is the conflict involved.
Conflict or Crisis?
Don’t confuse the two. Crisis is the event, while Conflict is all about making choices. A conflict will sometimes rise as the result of a crisis. A crisis may cause a character to make some difficult choices. Conflict is an internal struggle.
A conflict can be as mild as wondering what to have for breakfast when you’re all out of milk and want cereal, or as complex as betraying a friend because that will help him or her more than remaining silent.
Without conflict, stories wouldn’t be worth telling. Why do you watch reality TV? Conflict. Why do you read romance novels or watch action movies? Conflict.
5 Types of Conflict
No one wants to hear about the mundane breakfast-type conflicts. Those make for a snooze-fest of a novel…or dance competition. We want to know what choices the character or star made because of that one moment in their life. This is the meat of the back story, it’s the WHY for everything your character does in the story.
Various genres have their own types of conflict, but you don’t have to limit yourself by making that a hard and fast rule. Take the following types of conflict and ask yourself how they apply to your stories.
- Inner Conflict: A character biggest obstacle is themselves. They fight against their own morality and ethics. A good example is Tom Hanks in The Green Mile.
- Relational Conflict: A character struggles with a relationship. Could be romantic, could be family. This type of conflict surrounded our characters in Loyalties.
- Social Conflict: A character struggles with a group. The best example of this would be H.G. Wells’ 1984, where the government’s policies provide the catalyst for the characters’ struggles and choices.
- Survival Conflict: A character dealing with the need to survive against great odds, as in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.
- Situational Conflict: A character struggles with a particular situation. For this one, think disaster flicks like Titanic.
For the celebrities on Dancing with the Stars, their personal stories are rich with conflict. That conflict draws us in as we listen and watch, it makes us want to know more and especially how the story ends. You can do the same with your stories, whether it’s characters in your novel, or you telling your own personal success story on your About page.
People love conflict…when it’s someone else’s. Give them a good one and they will cheer and cry out for more.
And you’ll be right there to give it to them.