Michael Hauge's Writing Q&As

EMOTION vs. CONFLICT

Q: You repeatedly link emotion in a story to conflict. But what about scenes where there is no conflict - are you saying they aren't emotional? For example, in The Bridges of Madison County, the Meryl Streep character finishes taking a bath and comes to the kitchen where Clint Eastwood is waiting. She takes a phone call and puts her hand on his shoulder while talking. He caresses her hand. Then they dance, slowly and sensually. This scene conveys affection, attraction and love, but no conflict. Yet I find it VERY emotional.

A: I don’t think I have ever said that emotion IS conflict. But I repeatedly preach that emotion grows out of conflict. In a scene like the one you describe (which I agree is wonderfully emotional), the audience knows how hard it has been for these two people to get to this point, how much courage they had to exhibit, and how much fear and emotional conflict they had to overcome to allow themselves to act on their feelings. And now, as we watch, we also anticipate all the obstacles that will prevent them from being together in any permanent way. If everything leading up to this tender moment had been easy, and if they had no more conflict facing them, the scene wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally involving.


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"Michael Hauge’s principles and methods are so well argued that the mysteries of effective screenwriting can be understood - even by directors."

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