One of the hardest things for any new Playwright to master is the notion of the requirement that — all drama is conflict — and that any scene between two people must be packed with conflict in order to move the plot forward.

Most people in their real, everyday, lives run from conflict.  They want to get along with people and so they learn the art of negotiation, giving in and compromising.  Those people are rewarded in real life for keeping things positive and friendly.

However, on the stage, where life is hyperreal — and where time does not flow consecutively — it is the Playwright’s mission to craft scenes that are packed with tension and conflict.

Some refer to this conflict creation as the winding of a spring tighter and tighter and tighter until the spring releases its tension in a final gasp.

I prefer to think of conflict as a series of explosions that pepper each and every scene.  Open a scene on an argument and close a scene on a disagreement and you quickly have the recipe for a successful and memorable scene.

If people are getting along — not conflict.

If people are laughing and happy without being fake — not conflict.

If the end of the scene could lead to the restart of the same scene — no conflict.

Conflict is arguments.

Conflict is not getting along.

Conflict is being forced into a situation you do not want.

The Playwright that is able to wrench conflict into each and every character and then have those characters interact on stage for the exploding — crafts the beginnings of a perfect play.

Conflict can be silent.

Conflict can be full of smiles.

Conflict can be sex and love and roses.

Conflict is, and must always be — the event that drives the emotion and the intellect of the plot.

The greatest line of conflict to ever start a play is this:  “I’m going to kill you!”


  1. I love this, David! It’s great to bear in mind when writing a story or play and you are sitting there wondering, “What should happen next?” The answer usually is, “Conflict!”

  2. That’s the ideal! Get in there and get people disagreeing. Get them in a condition where something is at stake. The higher the stakes, the better for the drama, Gordon!

  3. Conflict is the way to successfully engage the audience…easier said than done in a playwriting though!

  4. I think I got an example – I watched “Twelve Angry Men” (the movie) when I was in class 10 and was speechless for next couple of days. Now,I think – that’s powerful. Though I didn’t get to see the actual play though.

  5. That’s a good example of a drama in constant conflict. Even if one conflict is resolved, another one quickly takes its place. There’s never a break from the tension.

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