Movies – Importance of “Dilemmas” in Movie Stories and Screenplays

A dilemma is an important conflict engine in a screenplay. Find a good dilemma for your main character, and you practically have a good movie right there.

A dilemma is a situation in which you have two options and both are WORSE than the other. It’s the ultimate mental torture for anyone.

A second condition for a good dilemma is that we should also CARE FOR it. A dilemma can be a dilemma TECHNICALLY. But when it comes down to it, it might be downright silly. Example, the “dilemma” of a millionaire executive about whether she should spend her vacation in a luxury resort in the Bahamas or have a one-on-one fundraiser with a Swiss banker. Who cares?

Here are some good dilemmas that are guaranteed to drive your story forward relentlessly:

Overall STORY dilemma to drive a CHARACTER through a movie:

A man cannot confess that his mom has killed a man because then his mom would go to jail for life. But if he doesn’t do that he may go to jail himself because he is a top suspect. And if he goes to jail he may die because he needs close medical attention for the condition-X.

SITUATIONAL dilemma to drive a SEQUENCE:

A woman trapped in a burning elevator can put off the flames by climbing out and reaching for the fire extinguisher. But if she does that there is a chance that she might be too late and her blind son may die in fire. And if she allows her son to climb out, the kid may not find the extinguisher at all since he is blind and then BOTH may die.

One book that does an EXCELLENT job in laying out the importance of dilemmas for script writers is Jeff Kitchen’s “Writing a Great Movie: Four Advanced Tools for the Dramatist.” Highly recommended

To your full-color wide-screen dreams!

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