Inner Conflict choices

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  • Inner Conflict choices

    I compiled a list of inner conflicts for characters so that I have an easy reference sheet when I'm building a character. Here's what I have so far. Some of them are variations of others. And I think I have a couple of repeats, but please add more to the list. Also, an example of a famous movie character who experienced that conflict is a welcome bonus:


    1)Don’t trust anyone.
    3)Your work is more important than the people in your life
    4)Doesn’t value life.
    5)Has no self-worth
    6)Wants what they can’t have (unrealistic)
    7)Wants it all (Ray Liotta in Goofellas)
    8)Lacks confidence.
    9)You don’t think you’re smart enough.
    10)You don’t believe in yourself). (Rocky)
    11)You’re too giving (selfless)
    12)You’re all about yourself (selfish)
    13) Afraid of relationships. .
    14)You’re too picky.
    15)Afraid to fall in love.
    16)Afraid of commitment.
    17)Lazy –
    18)Talk about doing things but never actually do anything about them.
    19)Conforms to what society wants.
    20)Always follows the rules.
    21)Does whatever they want without thinking thorugh the consequences
    22)Stuck-up/uptight.
    23)You’re a follower instead of a leader.
    24)Believe that you’re destined to be average.
    25)Someone who’s afraid of taking chances.
    26)Someone who’s too risky.
    27)Have a huge fear of failure.
    28)You’re bitter at the world.
    29)You’re a pushover (Office Space)
    30)Take yourself too seriously.
    31)Lives in the past (Mikey from Swingers)
    32)Never thinks about the future (Vince Vaughn from Swingers)
    33)Has too much pride to depend on others for help (me)
    34)You’re always trying to be what others want you to be instead of being yourself.
    35)You give up too easily.
    36)You’re a dreamer and never realistic
    37)You’re a realist and never dream
    38)You accept the status quo instead of taking action (Neo)
    39)You give in too easily.
    40)You let people take advantage of you.
    41)You’ll stop at nothing to get what you want – no matter the consequences (Jodie Foster in Contact)
    42)Overconfidence (victor vargas)
    43)Too cynical.
    44)Too optimistic.
    45)Too vain (Vanilla Sky)
    46)Irresponsible to the point of losing control of your life (forgetting sarah marshall)
    47)You’re a coward.
    48)Never stand up for yourself (Lester in American Beauty)
    49)Isn’t spontaneous (too rigid)
    50)Feel like all people are trying to take advantage of you
    51)Will step on anyone to get to where they want
    52)Doesn’t open up
    53)Figures everything will just work itself out
    54)You try too hard to please everyone (It’s a Wonderful Life)
    55)You refuse to accept reality
    Script Reviews - 5 a week! http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    Re: Inner Conflict choices

    Good list. Those could all work, and it could be a helpful reminder or brainstorming tool when you're starting a new screenplay. No one could come up with an exhaustive list, though, because there are an infinite number of potential characters and situations, so new ones are always possible.

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    • #3
      Re: Inner Conflict choices

      These sound like character flaws, is that what you mean?

      Isn't an inner conflict more like "should I or shouldn't I" or "am I gay?" or "i hate myself for loving you."

      That would be a whole other list.

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      • #4
        Re: Inner Conflict choices

        Nice list.

        It would be interesting to have an additional column indicating the theme associated with each of these internal conflicts.
        "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
        - Clive Barker, Galilee

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        • #5
          Re: Inner Conflict choices

          Originally posted by muckraker View Post
          These sound like character flaws, is that what you mean?

          Isn't an inner conflict more like "should I or shouldn't I" or "am I gay?" or "i hate myself for loving you."

          That would be a whole other list.
          I agree. The OP's list is a list of character traits, each of which could be a character flaw. Those traits don't always lead to inner conflicts.

          A character who doesn't trust anyone may not be conflicted as a result of that lack of trust. Likewise with the other traits or flaws on the list.

          Inner conflict might occur when a character who doesn't trust anyone must make a decision based on a stranger's opinion. Or say a character who is afraid of relationships falls in love. A fear of relationships conflicts with the character's desire for another character.

          I found this definition.
          Inner conflict is a private war within oneself. It could be anything from deciding between two job offers, to deciding many things in your personal life. There is inner conflict between good and evil; strength and weakness; love and hate, etc.

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          • #6
            Re: Inner Conflict choices

            Whatever you want to call the items on the OP's list, they are familiar from many movies. The character starts out one way and must change by the end of the story -- e.g. the character starts out always following the rules, and learns to loosen up by the end of the movie.

            The items on the list are about the character's internal need to improve his personality in a certain way, (e.g. the need to loosen up) as opposed to external goals of defeating the enemy, saving the world, etc.

            You can state your movie's theme as, "It's better to be (the way the character becomes at the end) than to be (the way the character is in the beginning of the movie.)" In this case, you could say the theme is "It's better to loosen up and go with the flow than to be a prisoner to the rules."

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            • #7
              Re: Inner Conflict choices

              Originally posted by muckraker View Post
              These sound like character flaws, is that what you mean?

              Isn't an inner conflict more like "should I or shouldn't I" or "am I gay?" or "i hate myself for loving you."

              That would be a whole other list.
              I agree. This is a list of characters' "fatal" flaws. Who they are before events force them to confront their internal conflict as it relates to the plot.

              These traits in a protag are usually revealed before the inciting incident. Then the protag's internal conflict begins.
              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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              • #8
                Re: Inner Conflict choices

                A little confused here. I was under the impression that an internal conflict is the one major flaw a character has that defines them as a person. It is overcoming this flaw by the end of the movie that is the character's goal (whether they know it or not).

                Let's say your character's inner conflict is that they don't trust anyone, and that has prevented anything good from happening in their life up to this point. By the end of the movie, they learn to trust, and ultimately, it leads to a more fulfilling life.

                Are we mincing words here? Are inner conflict and "fatal flaw" the same things? And if different, what is their relationship?
                Script Reviews - 5 a week! http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/

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                • #9
                  Re: Inner Conflict choices

                  wilsoneads:

                  You appear to be saying this list of character flaws drives plot. If this is what you mean, you're incorrect.

                  Characters have two goals:

                  - an interior goal (usually unconscious, related to their fatal flaw), and

                  - an exterior goal (always conscious, plot related).

                  The exterior goal drives the plot.

                  The interior goal drives the character arc.

                  Obvious example - Wizard of Oz. The Cowardly Lion, Tinman & Strawman all have fatal flaws (cowardice, heartless, brainless).

                  Their interior goals are to overcome these flaws. And these goals may lay dormant and unacheived forever until Dorothy comes along, bringing the movie's plot with her: She wants to go home and only the Wizard of Oz can help her.

                  The Lion, Tinman and Strawman choose to help her. (This makes them proactive characters).

                  Their exterior goal is to get Dorothy to the Emerald City to see the Wizard, while protecting her from the Wicked Witch (antagonist).

                  To accomplish the exterior goal, they must confront and overcome their fatal flaw and in the process they achieve their interior goal which makes for a nifty character arc.


                  That's my 2-cents.
                  Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                  • #10
                    Re: Inner Conflict choices

                    Originally posted by wilsoneads View Post
                    A little confused here. I was under the impression that an internal conflict is the one major flaw a character has that defines them as a person. It is overcoming this flaw by the end of the movie that is the character's goal (whether they know it or not).

                    Let's say your character's inner conflict is that they don't trust anyone, and that has prevented anything good from happening in their life up to this point. By the end of the movie, they learn to trust, and ultimately, it leads to a more fulfilling life.

                    Are we mincing words here? Are inner conflict and "fatal flaw" the same things? And if different, what is their relationship?
                    What you've listed are flaws a character must overcome in the course of completing his character arc. They're not called internal conflicts

                    I think the screenwriting term you're thinking of it the character's "internal need" or "internal goal." His "need" or his "internal goal" is to overcome the kinds of flaws you've listed.

                    Internal conflicts are something else: the inner turmoil and tough choices characters struggle with in their hearts and minds.

                    But often the character is happy with his flaw. He's been happy lying, or being promiscuous, or whatever he's being, but then he meets up with a situation or a person where his old ways don't work anymore, and to do what he needs to do, he has to change.
                    Last edited by Joaneasley; 07-25-2008, 12:38 PM. Reason: Changed my definition of internal conflict.

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