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Fight! Exposition Through Conflict

By Michael Schilf · July 2, 2010

If you’ve ever been in a serious relationship, you know all about conflict. Love hurts! It’s when our emotions are highest, that disagreements turn into arguments, which turn into fights and all those stinging words we wish we could take back.

Remember the old playground rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What a load of bull! Seriously, it’s much easier to recover from a black eye than to repair the damage that words can create.

But the worst emotional scars don’t come from a teammate who calls you stupid, the boss who says you’re incompetent, or the bully who snorts like a pig when you walk by. What really sticks is when a husband, a mother, a brother – someone you really love – makes a comment that stabs like an ice pick to your heart. When this occurs, some of us recoil, some hiss, but some strike back. More words are said, more stabs in the aorta, more stuff is dug up from the past.  

In screenwriting, understanding this dynamic is paramount because you need scenes in which an argument quickly deteriorates into a verbal assault of what happened last week, last month, or last year. Using the real conflict within an emotionally fueled fight is one of the best ways to deliver exposition. It’s relatable and believable. Not boring. Not explained. Not fake.