ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Writing - Tension, Counterpoint, Conflict and a Good Villain

Updated on January 5, 2012

My red-haired buddy is extremely claustrophobic. Unfortunately he lost his job and is living in a van. But he finally met the love of his life through Craigslist. She can only make love to red-haired men. Guess what - she lives in a tiny apartment and insists they sleep in the front hall closet she's made into a bedroom. Needless to say there's a lot of tension in that relationship.

The new movie adaptations of Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Richie has a constant tension between Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Watson wants to end his adventurous sleuthing to settle down to a peaceful wedded life, but Holmes keeps roping him into new adventures. He fears Watson will soon bore of conjugal bliss. In the original book series, Holmes likes to partake in cocaine, Dr. Watson feels strongly against his friend's habit. This forms a background and gives depth to their relationship.

Counterpoint is not as common in real life, but adds spice to your fictional characters. Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadow gives a good example. The arch-villain Professor Moriarty takes time out from conquering the world to feed the pigeons. In the James Bond series, Goldfinger gently strokes his cat while detailing how he will kill Bond. In the final scene of Blade Runner the robot recites a stanza of poetry after killing his Father and maker in the previous scene.

A priest told me of his last hours with the ancient dying Bishop. Priests from miles around were gathered. The last last rites administered when the Bishop sat up and shouted "Give me the book!" "Give me the book." The priests looked at each other, found the thick, black Latin Bible and brought it to him. "No. No. The book. The Book. Give me the book." The priests were perplexed. One grabbed a hymn book and scrambled over to the Bishop. He dropped it on the floor and said, "The Book. The Book. It's on my desk." A priest raced to search the desk, coming back with a thin white pad. The long wrinkled fingers flew out grabbing. His eyes relaxed, and his body sunk back in peace clutching the checkbook to his heart and he expired.

Conflict is the energy driving the story forward. Man against Man (Saving Private Ryan), Man against Nature (Jaws, Robinson Crusoe), Man against Society (The Matrix), Man against himself (Hamlet - "To be or not to be?", Man Against Time (Airport) and the good old Love triangle are the basis of most stories.

Aristotle was probably the first philosopher to study what makes a good story. His secrets of Greek play-writing are found in "Poetics" written more than two thousand years ago. The secret sauce to a good Greek play? A heroic underdog who defeats a stronger enemy. The hero must have some weakness. Superman needs to be vulnerable to kryptonite. And like every Superman story, Superman must be almost defeated before coming back to ultimate victory. The eviller the villain, the sweeter the catharsis of final victory.

In summary, every writer should think about tension, counter-point, conflict, flawed heroes and fiendish villains.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • johndvan profile imageAUTHOR

      johndvan 

      6 years ago

      Thanks B. Leekhey. I've edited and expanded it a bit. I'll keep working on it if people like it.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      6 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Good advice.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)