True Blood Storytelling Lesson 1: Manufactured Conflict

Manufactured Conflict in True Blood: What Not To Do

Good conflict happens when two characters have diametrically-opposed wants in a particular scene or story. Mario wants to save the princess, but Bowser wants to burn him to death with fireballs. Okay, that’s not most literary example, but you get my meaning.

In True Blood, season 5 episode “Sunset,” unrealistically-hot werewolf Alcide reunites with his father Jackson. Later, they get mad and yell at some dude.

Here’s the scene summary in question, taken from the True Blood Wiki:

Alcide and Jackson receive an unexpected visit from Robert Rollins, a member of Jackson’s old pack. He comes to Jackson’s trailer to caution them that baby vamp packs are on the loose. Jackson tells him to get off his land and Robert retaliates by saying that he shouldn’t have done what he did and could still be in the pack. Alcide confronts Jackson after Robert leaves and explains that he knows he stole money from the pack leading to his being forced out of the pack.

manufactured conflict
“Why am I shirtless? Does it really matter, viewers?”

The problem here is that the conflict in this scene is completely manufactured, for no good reason. Everyone raises their voices and tosses threats around, and this is suppose to heighten the tension. I think it had the opposite effect.

If you read the summary above (and don’t Baby Vamps sound so cute?), it explains that Robert and Jackson don’t like each other because of history between them. However, during the scene, this isn’t clear, or at least not explained well, so we just have people yelling at each other for odd reasons. It’s conflict, but it’s not legitimate, so it fails to accomplish what it set out to do.

Which brings me to my ultimate point: you can’t manufacture conflict. Characters need real motivations when tensions rise. Viewers want to worry about the protagonist not getting what she wants, because the antagonist’s want is equally powerful.

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