Conflict – Parsing The Moment

I was reading The Better Angels Of Our Nature by Pinker. In it he discusses the three reasons to go to war.

They are:

Gain (predatory)
Protection (pre-emptive)
Reputation (retaliatory)

Of course these overlap, and one can be offered in the guise of another, depending on the given justification.

As a writer and director I was struck by the application this has to scene analysis and composition. Take any play, and go through it looking at the way the characters fight each other. You can find out a lot through applying this little bit of insight.

I was recently directing Moonfleece by Philip Ridley at Bath Spa University, and this was my first opportunity to parse the exact nature of the conflict into these categories. Doing so simplifies in the best possible way, the nature of the conflict moment to moment. This attack is to gain sympathy and is pre-emptive, this attack is to restore pride and is retaliatory, this attack is to break up an infatuation, and is predatory.

You can attach this analysis to the way you parse a moment – there are several paradigms for parsing a moment ACTION REACTION DECISION is useful (especially in bringing subtext into definition) there is also ACTION CONSEQUENCE DECISION, and FACT AFFECT OPINION, there are no doubt many more.

It is useful to ask your actors to analyse a scene from the point of view of what they are seeking GAIN PROTECTION REPUTATION – and then ask them to put it into action using one of the above systems of looking at what is happening moment to moment. You can then apply actions, efforts and flows accordingly to sharpen the HOW they do it. Writing that holds a lot of emotion soaks this up, and gives as much as you put in.

See where it takes you.

Je Suis Charlie.

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