It is a little known secret that the driving force behind any story—regardless of the genre—is conflict. Without conflict and the interplay of emotions that arises with it, great stories would not happen. Heroes do not overcome their obstacles on the very first attempt. They struggle with their internal demons while trying to conquer external challenges. This ability to connect to the protagonist’s silent battle to the physical story is what makes novels such an appealing and satisfying medium. Unlike writing for the screen, book authors are able to take their audience into the mind of the character, creating a more palpable connection.

Problem ProtagonistsMost screenplays are antagonist-driven. Because of how difficult it is to reveal internal conflict on screen, screenwriters rely on external antagonists to create the images for their audience. 95% of movie scripts  are written this way —with an antagonist driving the conflict of the tale.

There are other ways of telling a story that with the antagonist method. What if you wanted to write a script that built its conflict around the protagonist?  Would it be possible and has it been done? The answer to both questions is “yes”:

Five Easy Conflicts

Bobby  (played by Jack Nicholson) works on an oil rig and lives with a waitress Rayette (played by Karen Black). He spends his evenings handing with his pal Elton. Bobby has a problem with responsibility and authority, and constantly finds himself fighting against both. One evening, Bobby and Rayette go out bowling with Elton and his wife, and Bobby spends a considerable amount of time flirting with another lady. He gambles most of his money away shortly after he has been paid and spends a lot of time drinking and screwing around.

After one too many altercations, Bobby and Elton are kicked from the job for a while. In a notable scene, Bobby and Elton are stuck in traffic when Bobby exits the car, climbs into an open truck transporting a piano and plays a classical piece much to the amazement of onlookers.

As it pans out, Bobby comes from a family of talented musicians and is in fact the most talented of the family. Unable to handle the demands and attention of the world, he has chosen to work away from it all and drifted to an oil field. The movie ends with three major changes: Bobby is fired from his job after a fight with the police, he visits his famous sister only to discover his father is dying and Rayette announces that she is pregnant.