- Frodo from The Lord of the Rings wants to destroy the one ring.
- Marlin from Finding Nemo wants to find his son Nemo (hence the title).
- Pi from Life of Pi wants to survive.
- Luke from the Star Wars wants to become a Jedi.
What is preventing my character from reaching his or her goal?
You can’t just hand your characters what they want. They have to shed blood, sweat, and tears to get it. Without this conflict, there is no story. Who wants to read about how Frodo took a nice stroll to the end of the Shire and dropped the ring into some bottomless pit without any struggle? No one. (Look at the examples above and think about what each character went through to get what they wanted.) Without conflict, the audience really doesn’t get to know the characters. Sure, we may know (through exposition) what they look like, what kind of family they come from, and what they proclaim their beliefs to be; but what happens when conflict tests those beliefs? When they have to decide between two good possibilities or between the lesser of two evils? When they have to decide what to keep and what to sacrifice? Who are they then? The answer reveals who they are deep down inside. Conflict, in short, reveals who characters truly are. And the greater the conflict, the greater the revelation.
- Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles wants to be a good father/husband but also a good super hero (to fulfill his vocation).
- Darth Vader from Star Wars wants to remain faithful to the emperor (the authority which has given meaning to his existence) but also wants to save his son Luke–paternal “instincts” are kicking in here.
- In The Lion King, Simba starts out as a spoiled brat (someone who would be a horrible king), then he becomes guilt ridden and too afraid to do anything for the good of society, and then he becomes a humble yet confident king (the kind of king the Pridelands needs).
- In Finding Nemo, Marlin begins as an overprotective parent; but throughout his dangerous journey to find his son, he learns that he needs to let go. This is evidenced by his letting Nemo go into the fishing net so as to save the other fish from being caught.