A beautiful story told without a single word
Lessons in engagement from Flight of the Conchords

To live is to have a story to tell

“But how could you live and have no story to tell?” This quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky's White Nights (1848) was sent in by a reader today. Life by its very nature is a struggle, a journey on a road with ups and downs and more conflict than we like to admit. But this is life, this is drama. "Conflict, struggle, overcoming obstacles, both inside and outside, are the primary ingredients in all drama," says Syd Fields in Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. "All drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no action; without action, you have no character; without character, you have no story; and without story, you have no screenplay." To live is to have a story to tell. Whether you decide to share your story (stories) with others is another matter.

The directness and clarity of the Dostoevsky line reminded me of some of the advice that you might hear from screenwriting guru Robert McKee. The clip below features actor Brian Cox playing the Robert McKee character giving feedback to a writer's question (played by Nicolas Cage) in the Oscar-winning movie Adaptation. It's worth seeing (or seeing again if you are familiar with it).

A takeaway line: "If you write a screenplay without conflict or crisis, you'll bore your audience to tears." We can apply the spirit of this to the world of multimedia presentations as well. You do not have to create material to rival Citizen Kane, but your message can be communicated much better if you identify the conflict and the journey to resolve the conflict while making it clear why your audience should care.


Christina O'Shaughnessy

Brilliant video clip! Thanks, Garr!


Thank you for my new favorite quote!

Pablo Varela

Let's not forget character change. If the journey to resolve conflict takes the character back to the beginning with no apparent change (physical or emotional) the story is less compelling than if we see the character evolve.

Pablo Varela

Sorry about the spelling typo above. I beg you to fix it (pun intended).

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