-Universal Story Conflicts-
by T Severe, Ph.D., Screenwriter/filmmaker


In your study of literature, you likely have come across a discussion of universal story conflicts.  Compelling stories rely on some underlying conflict.  This is true for screenplays in particular since presenting a visual treatment of the conflict is what movies are all about.

While there is some latitude in how story conflicts are usually discussed here is an overview of the ones most commonly cited and some suggested film examples:


Man vs. Nature
– Castaway, All is Lost

Man vs. Society
– Norma Rae, A Civil Action, The Trial of the Chicago Seven

Man vs. Man
– Rocky
– (collectively) War movies

Man vs. Self
– again, Rocky as he overcomes self-doubt

Another popular conflict theme includes Man vs. Machine/Technology (Terminator) 

Think of some of your favorite movies-where would you place them?  Where does your story fall?

Further discussions can be found at:

Remember, dramatic conflict is your story’s engine.  It drives both your plot, and more importantly, your protagonist’s character arc.  And tapping into a universal theme in your screenplay will allow your story to appeal to a wider audience.

Keep writing.



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