second half conflicts



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  • second half conflicts

    I am concerned about the level of conflict at the climax of my second act.

    The protagonist is preparing for 'the night of his life' when an ex girlfriend walks through the door of his business. Her mere arrival ignites all conflict--all characters are linked to her. It turns out the protaganist called her to come. This is the only scene the ex is in, although her character is set up and referred to throughout the script.

    My dilemna: The protagonist wants to propose to the love interest on this night (of course she doesn't know this when the ex walks in). Further, the protag has just finished informing the love interest she's being fired (she's a consultant for the protag's business) when the ex walks in.

    The Ex must walk in when she does. It's vital to the protag's story & character. I'm concerned about this being a solid conflict as well as the love interest's reaction to these events: IMO she realizes the Protag still believes he has a chance with his ex, has a chance with the life he once gave up (which the ex represents). It breaks the trust of the love interest. She storms out, heartbroken and eventually tries to get her old mundane job back.

    I'm seeking thoughts & ideas on the conflict & proper reaction for the love interest. Anyone?

  • #2
    Work backward. Decide where you want your characters to be at the end, then make it as difficult as possible for them to get there. It's the obstacles that will make the story work.

    Also, who should we want the protag to end up with at the end? If he's going to end up with the ex, then when she walks in, the audience should cheer. If he's going to end up with the love interest, they should be rooting for him not to fall into a trap. All that depends on how you set up the characters throughout the screenplay and what your protags personal need is. If he screwed up the relationship with the ex and he NEEDS to make it right, (despite his DESIRE to snag this new love interest) then bot the audience and the love interest will realize that the ex represents a threat.

    How the love interest reacts depends on her character and what she wants and needs. You just need to decide that and then have he act accordingly.


    • #3 got a problem.

      And that problem man is that stupid.

      Stupid Mistake #1...having ANY contact with an ex, just before you propose marriage.

      Stupid Mistake #2...firing a woman you are sleeping with.

      Stupid Mistake #3...proposing to a woman you fired. (Is that the "Golden Parachute"?)

      Stupid Mistake #4...Timing it so that Stupid Mistake's #1, #2, and #3 all occur at the very same moment.

      Without reading the script, it just strikes me as completely unbelievable.

      Your pal,


      • #4
        Re: got a problem.

        "no man is that stupid"



        • #5
          Well it is not very realistic to expect a perfect romantic evening with a girl you just fired. But I might believe a guy would think so. Of course then the girl would become my hero and I would be hoping she would leave him in the dust. Which is maybe not what you want your audience wanting in a romantic comedy.


          • #6
            Men are stupid

            I think we can all agree that men are stupid. But since we've all seen at least one episode of "Jenny Jones", "Sally Jessy Raphael" or "Divorce Court", I think we can also agree that men do not corner the market on stupidity. Especially where romance is involved.

            How did we get to the point that the protagonist fires his would-be-fiancee just moments before his ex-girlfriend shows up? Well, the protagonist ASKED her to come over. Jeez, that's just a level of stupidity I'm not ready to accept in any person, male or female.

            "Hey, you've been a great help to the company, but here's your last check, I'll see you tonight for dinner, right?...oh, and I believe you know Melanie..."

            Your pal,


            • #7

              the whole setup seemed off to me, but I thought it might work for it's comic intent. It didn't seem feasible to me, but I thought I'd get second opinions before either tossing it or trying it out.

              Thanks guy.


              • #8
                renewed conflict

                Here I am butting my head against the f'in wall again...

                New idea regarding the above stated conflict...

                ...Protag (Joe) is still prepping for night of his life. The whole 'firing' thing is out.

                The 'ex' (Diane) referred to is a very close old friend from the neighborhood who went on to become SOMEBODY FAMOUS. Joe always had hidden feelings for Diane, never voiced them, got burned when he found her with another guy. Diane left never knowing how he truly felt. She is the ONE THAT GOT AWAY.

                Joe never pursued his dream. Diane' represents the dream he never went after. Now, he wants to take his chance. He calls her because she is the one he needs to resurrect his dream.

                Jeannette (love interest) sees Diane and realizes Joe still believes it can work--his dream and his love for her. She sees Diane as a romantic threat even though Joe insists she's not. She knows she will lose Joe, either to Diane or to the dream that will take him away. She does not want to be alone, has a strong sense of family, does not want a long distance relationship. When he proposes, Jeannette turns him down.

                Any better? Any more workable?

                And yes, Steve, I am trying another approach and working backwards. A little slow goint, something I'm not used to. Thanks for the tip.


                • #9
                  Re: renewed conflict

                  Taken out of context, it's a little hard for me to see it.

                  How does the thing end? At some point the protag has be so badly hemmed in by the situations and obstacles that he has to act or he will explode. Think of cornering a wounded animal.

                  This is a rom-com, right?


                  • #10
                    how it ends

                    Yes, Don, it is a rom-com. It ends with the protag saving his business ( a small, supper-club ristorante) instead of abandoning it for the youthful dreams he once had (being a big-name singer). he comes to realize the true passion in his life (being a chef), and finally opening up a grand, 50's style supper club with top-notch live entertainment. He hooks up with Jeannette (the marketing consultant for his ristorante) his love interest and his 'ex', Diane, (she's a girl from the neighborhood who went on to become a famous singer) ends up with a new protege to be her opening act.

                    Joe calls Diane, trying to get a second chance because his ristorante is about to be shut down for a number of reasons. Joe's father (also a chef), who started the ristorante, trained Joe to sing and they shared a vision of Joe being the next Sinatra. Pushing forty with nothing to show for his life thus far, Joe tries to recapture the dream he once had. The passion in his life has been rekindled since he met Jeannette, but now he must choose between his love for her and the dreams he longed for.

                    Streamlining the conflict and making it realistic is where I'm blocked. HELP!


                    • #11
                      Re: how it ends

                      Well, let me tell you a story. An employee of mine, Camille, at the cafe I owned, asked me for advice. She said that her sister, Jane, who was a crackerjack manager for McDonalds (I mean she managed a chain of 20 outlets) wanted Camille to partner with her and open a restaurant. Camille was a great cook but was also getting a Master's in Virology. Should she do it?

                      I told her to imagine that you were going to spend 50 to 100 hours a week on just one thing for 5 years. No distractions; just one project. What could you accomplish if you concentrated that kind of focused energy?

                      Write a novel?
                      Go to medical school?
                      Start a singing career?
                      Get a PhD in virology?
                      Travel around the world?

                      Any of these things or anything else...

                      Or, you could open a restaurant.

                      As I found out with the cafe, I didn't own it, it owned me. It didn't let me take a vacation for 5 years. Everything that went wrong was my problem. In the end, it went out of business and stuck me with the bills. I'm lucky. It could have been a success, and I'd still be slaving away.

                      The only way a person can run a restaurant is if they love the business and the life more than everything else. You have to have total passion for the business. Total. Or else you might as well sell yourself to the Saudi Royal family and cook for them.

                      Is it possible that after 20 years in the restaurant business Joe doesn't know if he is passionate for it?
                      Joe sings once in a while for customers in his restaurant. His father (bless his heart) wanted him to reach for the stars. But Joe always hedged; he didn't have the confidence to give it his all. He kept the restaurant as his fallback, thus ensuring that he would need it (ie, he would fail as a singer).

                      The restaurant is hard work; long hours, seven days a week. But, really, other than singing, working in the restaurrant is all Joe has ever done. The restaurant is a safe little world of it's own where he is the Crown Prince.

                      Joe's dad is a passionate chef. The restaurant has been his whole world. Life, family, work; there were no divisions. Yet he knows in his heart that it's not for Joe. Every day his son shows up at the restaurant, Joe's dad's heart breaks a little more. "If I didn't love cooking, I'd go work for the sanitation department," he tells Joe.

                      So now Diane comes and tells Joe he was always the best (singer, that is), and she wants him to do an act with her as a duo. But he's in love with Jeanette. Yet 20 years of running the restaurant has left him gaunt faced and hollow eyed. Jeanette sees the fire in his eyes as Diane tells him about the opportunity. She runs away in dispair.

                      Now, at midlife, Joe faces the same choice he had when he was young. It's kind of like walking up to the edge of a canyon and looking down. The bleached bones of those who have failed are piled up at the bottom a 1000 feet below. Across the divide are your supporters yelling "Come on! Jump across! You can make it!"

                      Do you take the biggest run of your life and jump that chasm? Do you turn away? Or do you tie a rope around your waist and try the jump knowing that if you fail--when you fail--your security tether will let you go back to where you were saying "I tried."

                      Well, do or do not, do not try.

                      Richard Gere walks through a factory and sweeps Sean Young into his arms. Henry Fonda burns the house he was building on Spenser's Mountain. Gary Cooper walks out into the street at High Noon. Matt Damon drives to San Francisco.

                      Caesar crosses the Rubicon.

                      He burns down the restaurant--oops, that's Federal crime--er...he sells the restaurant to the slimey, that won't do...he gives the restautant to Mother Teresa to run as a soup kitchen. He tells Jeanette that he loves her and wants to marry her, but he is going to take that last chance, and he'd like her to be with him. But if she can't give it her all, then, well she might as well say no. You're either on the bus or you're off.

                      And she's on.

                      ...So he partners with Diane--Strictly Business!--in her new act.

                      Uptempo music..
                      Roll credits

                      "Start spreading the news: I'm leaving today!......"
                      Alright; it didn't end the way it was supposed to. My bad. I guess I got caught up in it all. Either way, it's the same thing; he has to a)go with his true passion, b)give up all other paths. Take him up to the point where he's gonna explode, and make him choose: Do or do not.

                      The right answer is "do".


                      • #12
                        Is your climax in the right place?


                        Maybe you've got Diane showing up too late in the script--it sounds like most of the real conflict occurs AFTER she shows up. Yet, you have said that Diane's arrival is at the end of the second act.

                        Maybe it should be at the end of the first act.

                        First act--set up the relationship, will they get together? (They meet/there's a problem with the restaurant/here's a concept...a different type of restaurant)

                        Second act--they will, but they've got obstacles to overcome (old restaurant fading/new restaurant being planned/Joe's unresolved feelings for Diane)

                        Third act--Final buildup to climax (relationship shatters, then rebuilds/new restaurant opening/Joe proposes to Jeanette).

                        If Diane arrives at the end of Act Two, Joe has to resolve his feelings about her, she's got to become aware of them and react, Jeanette has to react, a new restaurant has to open, the relationship has to come back together...that's a lot to accomplish in 25 pages.

                        Well, take that for what it's worth. Sometimes I just like to suggest massive restructuring of other peoples' work, because I know that I'm not the one who has to do the work.

                        Your pal,

                        P.S. Whose idea is the 50's style restaurant? I hope it's Jeannette's. I hate "consultants" who don't come up with original ideas or solutions.


                        • #13
                          Here's the REAL problem.

                          The protagonist, Joe, is in love with both women. Diane is the ONE THAT GOT AWAY. I just don't think you "pine" over someone unless you still have feelings for them.

                          Maybe I'm a little confused, but it seems that he has some strong feelings for both women. If he proposes (glad you got rid of the FIRING) maybe the ex can enter the story after he's began his serious, or comedic, line of proposal. It could be that Joe's intentions aren't quite understood by Jeanette, this is when the ex rushes in causing trouble, confusion, and a ruined evening.

                          Somewhere in your story, I hope that he "gets over" his feelings for Diane (his ex, right). Maybe she'll do something that causes him to see that she wasn't the right one for him and he's over her, ready to move on, convincing Jeanette that she is the true ONE for him.


                          • #14
                            Re: Here's the REAL problem.

                            Well okay I am tired and a little surly so maybe that is coloring my perspective, but I think the problem is --

                            You want the audience to root for two people to get together when one of those people is a guy phoning up his ex crush the same day he is proposing to the girl you want the audience to root for him to get.

                            Maybe you have handled this so delicately I will understand this guy's great need to call up his ex crush the same day he is proposing to another girl. Then again, maybe I think the guy is, um, (censored).

                            Want to take odds which one it is? Look, I totally don't sympathize with your guy. He is stringing one girl along who is his second choice while he gets up his courage to pursue someone else and I am not rooting for him to get Second Choice Girl. Or First Choice Girl. I am rooting for Second Choice Girl to toss wine in his face and say bad words and walk out and for First Choice Girl to tell him he's a loser and leave him in the dust too. If that is what you want the audience to want, then you got it. If you want the audience to actually want them together, I would maybe start evaluating your guy's actions from the perspective of the girl he is supposed to marry, because I would not marry him.


                            • #15
                              real problems

                              To clarify:

                              Couchguy has an excellent point--Diane (the 'ex') turns up far too late in the script. She must appear earlier to create real conflict. Simple solution--I just didn't see it. As a sidenote, there is no physical consummation (sp?) of the relationship between protag & Love Interest. I just don't believe it's necessary. I personally am tired of all stories where sex alone is used to change the plot. ( but yes, the sex issue is addressed within the story--cleanly & with humor)

                              GIG is also right in saying the protag is totally unsympathetic when he plays the two women against each other. BTW GIG, you are not surly, you are tough and a straight shooter. Any story will be better off with such an approach.

                              Perhaps this can clarify:

                              The protag's (Joe) main conflict of choice is not which woman does he truly love, but rather, what is the true passion in his life. Does he pursue his goal of saving his family ristorante and being known as the best g-damn chef in NY...OR...does he pursue the long-dormant but newly rekindeled dream of becoming a famous singer?

                              Joe has been pretty much a cold, lifeless shell since he lost his father. His father was a terrific chef and loved the popular singers. He taught Joe both how to sing and how to cook, and they shared a common dream of having a supper club where Joe could delight patrons' ears with his voice while his father delighted their tongues with his food.

                              His father passed before either dream came true. Joe clings to the ristorante now because it is the last link to his father and the dreams they shared. As long as it is there, there is the slimmest of hope the dream can come true. (in a sense, it represents the dreams of 'the good life' we call cling to even though we are all working class stiffs).

                              Joe's passion is ignited when he meets Jeannette. She gives him his heart back. there is not question he loves her, but now he has to choose between being a top flight chef or the pursuit of a singing career.

                              He cannot have both. Jeannette has a strong sense of family, will not settle for a long distance relationship and does not want to play second fiddle to his career. She also does not want to be the reason Joe gives up his singing career, fearful he will always resent her for holding him back if he doesn't take the chance. As written now, when Jen realizes Joe still believes he's got a shot at becoming a famous singer and must leave her to try, she walks out on him. Her realization comes when Diane walks in the door for the first time--Jen, without ever having met her, knows who she is and what her presence means. What she doesn't know is Joe has the ring in his pocket and plans to propose to her later that night.

                              Diane is a girl from Joe's past who made it as a famous singer. This occurred right after Joe lost his father--he was lost, passionless, and ended up blowing his audition. DIANE represents the return of his dream, a second chance at stardom, if you will. Joe always had a crush on Diane, but never acted on his feelings. She was too good a friend, too good a singing partner to risk losing (as Joe sees it). On the night of his blown audition, Joe returned to his hotel to find Diane in the arms of another man. That was the night he lost his heart and soul--until Jeannette came along.

                              So, you see, there is no 'romantic' history between Diane and Joe yet she is still 'The One That Got Away." Her return does not have to launch a romantic conflict between Diane and Jen, but I was trying to fit it in because it may make the story stronger. As you can tell, I ahven't been able to fit in properly. If there's a way to do it and make the story stronger I'm all for it.

                              If there is not a way to fit in, is there enough conflict to sustain the story and and create proper dramatic tension? Does a 'romantic conflict' have to mean a character must choose between two people (if it does I'm in trouble). Or can the 'romantic conflict' be a choice between the things you love and the things you have always wanted? (If so, then I'm okay).

                              When Joe makes his choice, all goes wrong and it appears he has made the wrong choice. He loses everything anyway. This sets up growth of character and the resolution.

                              Can it work?