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Creating Compelling Emotional Conflict

I have been teaching screenwriting for a good while now and the greatest lesson I can share with others is how to create a conflict for your protagonist that will move an audience emotionally.

This is essentially the difference between a great screenplay and a mediocre one. And it pertains to every genre of screenwriting, including action, sci-fi and romantic comedy.

What are the components of a compelling emotional conflict and how does it force your protagonist to face the very issues in his or her life that they have been avoiding to their detriment for years? This not only relates to our characters but also to our own emotional growth.

These are some of the topics we will discuss in my upcoming webinar. How do we realistically create character growth? Because we are all limited by the blocks or wounds that we carry around and are afraid to confront. The plot of your movie is simply constructed to force your protagonist to face those wounds – what the Greeks called the Achilles heel.

So in effect, the plot is a device. It is not there as a thing in and of itself, it’s there to serve a higher purpose. And that higher purpose is character growth.

Charles Darwin wrote about this extensively when he studied why one's species continued to flourish and the others didn’t. It wasn’t the strongest species or the most intelligent ones that survived – it was the ones that were able to change. And this is why our protagonists become heroes – not because they are the smartest characters or those most physically strong – but because they’re able to evolve when the circumstances demand it.

Every compelling emotional conflict must have three elements as a part of its construction – it must be universal – something that anyone in the audience can relate to. It must have high stakes for your protagonist – and these high stakes must be emotional. And thirdly, this conflict must test the protagonist in a profound way – will they have the courage, honor or integrity to overcome these obstacles and prevail?

During my webinar we will discuss many films in many different genres and I’ll point out how the emotional conflicts are actually constructed. We’ll discuss whether the other main characters outside of your protagonist need to change to the degree your protagonist does and why this is crucial to your storytelling on a creative as well as commercial level.

We’ll also discuss how to deepen the emotional conflict of your protagonist by choosing reluctant heroes as well as finding provocative dilemmas that deepen the choices your heroes or heroines will face.

Many screenwriting authorities express the importance of a character arc but don’t give you easy and understandable tools to actually accomplish this for your protagonist. In this webinar, I’ll show you step-by-step how to create a character arc in terms that are easy to use and understand.

*Editor Note: If you can't make the live event, a recording will be sent to you as long as you sign up in advance.*

Glenn M. Benest is an award-winning writing producer with seven produced screenplays, including two that were directed by Wes Craven. His independent film, HUNGRY HEARTS, was nominated for numerous awards at film festivals throughout the country and is being distributed internationally by Shoreline Entertainment. Mr. Benest is a celebrated lecturer and instructor and his professional screenwriting workshops have launched six feature films, including SCREAM and EVENT HORIZON.

Register for Glenn Benest's Webinar Creating Compelling Emotional Conflict


At a Glance

  • During this live webinar you will learn how to construct central emotional conflicts to hook your audience
  • Gain an insight into how the emotional dilemmas facing your characters drive successful storytelling
  • Discover how you can plot the emotional journey of your protagonist and understand how these skills work in all genres and make stories compelling and successful