Creating Conflict – the soul of a story

The Worst Antagonist – Who doesn’t know what he want

Consider the following short story 

‘… Vikram Gangwar was a rich spoilt brat free loading on his father’s money. His infatuation with cars and bikes began soon as he hit puberty. His mother died when he was  six and his father had no time time to spare from his political meetings and rallies. All that Vikram was left with, was the collection of Bentleys, Ferraris and  Harleys in his dad’s garage. 

The only reason that Vikram ever went to college, was Sonali. The girl who he met in the second year of political science and they fell in love. 

Dev Singh Gangwar – Vikram’s dad was a good hearted man. He knew that the only way to keep Vikram’s wasteful ways in check and and further his political ambitions was to marry him to a good middle class girl from a different caste. He got the lovebirds married, just after Vikram failed his seventh semester exams.’      ————— The End. 

Now I know that there are many important flaws with this story, but I want you to think the  most fundamental flaw that ruins an otherwise good character description of Vikram. 

I really want you to think and write it on a paper..

I

I

I

Think.. harder. 

I

I

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Okay let’s discuss. The most important flaw of all (and I’d be a bit theatrical here) stems from a very fundamental question that I  happened to come across in my favourite Netflix series – Lucifer.. 

Did you guess the question yet? 

Okay enough games. Lucifer Morningstar, the king of hell, looks into the eyes of every murder suspect and asks one question, each time, every time – “What is it that you really desire?” 

Yes folks! The most important ingredient that is missing in Vikram’s  story is – BURNING DESIRE . I’m sorry I had to bold and capitalise every letter, but it is that important. Let’s analyse.

The story doesn’t show us the risks that Vikram can take for his love or the sacrifices he can make. Even the girl, Sonali, has no desire but to marry Vikram and above everything else, the Dad has found the best possible solution. Everyone is happy. And that is the problem, because the reader is unhappy. 

We have come across one of the most important fallacies of the human psyche. We want our lives to be like Vikram Gangwar, but we love to taste some spice, some struggle or a conflict in others’ lives. And that’s what creates an interesting story. 

Allow me to put the same perspective in different words. Almost every one of us has read and appreciated Harry Porter, but most of us would give up or commit suicide if we had to actually live his life ( hypothetically speaking). 

People love to read about a protagonist who can put himself into danger for his love or is ready to humiliate himself for his beloved, in front of hundreds of people …. why? Just because most of us can’t do that. 

So let’s talk about ways on how we can make Vikram’s story better. 

The first one would be a typical 90’s Bollywood that the Dad is the evil one and he would do unspeakable things to destroy their relationship. There is a conflict of desires. But that is too old school. 

The second could be that Vikram has a twisted mind and a habit of getting everything that he wants so much so that he can cause harm to the girl, Sonali. That would make him an antagonist and Sonali has a strong desire of her own. Maybe another boy or a career and that that would lead to a conflict. Still, this idea has been tried and tested in many a mainstream novels and movies. 

We can go a step ahead and can give the girl, Sonali, a burning desire for money or power or revenge against Vikram ( he may have cause harm to someone with his reckless life – someone close to Sonali). That would make her the antagonist. 

We must understand that a story is all about the conflict of desires. 

A lot of times the conflict may not be created by an antagonist but by the situations themselves. 

Consider a situation in which the protagonist has to diffuse a bomb and he needs a safety pin, or something similar, to do that. Now the bomb many be the villain’s doing, but getting the safety pin against the ticking clock, that is nowhere to be found, is a scene that would make the reader sit up. 

It’s not that the tension can be build in thriller, action or horror stories only. We can do it in love stories too. A protagonist trying to propose to his woman and an unfortunate event ruins the proposal every time, is a tested method to create tension in love stories. Or a protagonist trying to express his emotion in front of hundreds of people staring at him.

We must remember two things. Every character, must have a strong desire for something. And the conflict of desires leads to an unforgettable story. 

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