When I read scripts either for a contest or for private clients–both writers and producers–I come across a variety of stories and a vast array of beginnings. Some stories begin and lead you right in. Also, there are submissions that would make a great story—so far as the first ten pages go—if only we got to conflict more quickly.
What is the point of conflict? To draw in your audience (readers or viewers) as quickly as possible and keep them with the story. Aha! Conflict. Every scene needs conflict. Conflict is not explanation of something bad that is happening or happened before, conflict happens between characters…right here, right now. Not later. Most importantly, conflict is what keeps your reader/audience interested in your story.
OK, I’ll admit that this is hard when you are working on your set up. I’ve done it myself…on the first draft. When you edit, make certain conflict happens in each and every scene. One way to double check your conflict is to pretend you are watching what you have written as a movie. Where are your eyes? Are you listening? Are you wondering why the characters are having this conversation? If it’s the last question, you need to take a look at your scene and see how you can drum up some conflict. Spark some challenges between characters. Make things happen, get us cheering for someone before the inciting incident.
Oh, yeah, the inciting incident. Don’t confuse this with conflict. A great big huge inciting incident early on in your story does not make conflict. Somehow you need to get your audience involved from the get-go–long before the inciting incident happens. You cannot rescue a soggy beginning with a super, bang-up inciting incident. Your audience will have left you. It’s almost impossible to get the audience back once they’ve gone.
Start with conflict and keep it going at every possible moment.