Intention and Obstacle

writing tips intention and obstacle

I’ve been taking a class by Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting recently, via
One of the lessons was entitled Intention and Obstacle.  Even though it’s about screenwriting, it really applies to any kind of drama, especially of course, novels. For me, Sorkin explained how to create conflict in very clear terms. Thought I’d share what I learned!

  •   Intention

Your character has to want something. Dinner, get to California, or save the world. They have to want something.

  • Obstacle

But intention, or wanting something, has no conflict. There must be an obstacle in your character’s path. All the restaurants are closed, the car broke down, he is captured by the enemy.

~ Intention is nothing without an obstacle. But together they create conflict, which creates story. ~
Alright, there are the bones of it. But just because there’s conflict, doesn’t mean the conflict is interesting. In order to do that, both the intention and the obstacle have to be something extra special.

Why does he have to go to California? Can’t he wait a week?

Why doesn’t he just call AAA when his car breaks down?

The character’s intention can’t have loopholes, and neither can the obstacle. Your character has to get to California, or else the President is going to be assassinated.Okay, so he has to get there. Why didn’t he take a plane? Why didn’t he call someone he knows at the Pentagon?
If there is a way to get through the obstacle easier, that loophole has to be closed. He can’t because he’s on the no fly list. No one higher up will listen to him. Etc.
One more thing Sorkin pointed out I think is really important:

No intention, no obstacle, can be too great. In other words, make the situation as impossible as you can. (Which if you’re me, you often do, and then realize your character is about to die and wait that can’t happen. Not yet at least).

I hope this gives a clear idea on what I learned from Sorkin. It gave me some great insights,  I hope you can learn something too!

~Bernadette out.



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