Eight-Legged Conflict

Posted on April 20, 2016 By

At last, we have arrived at our final entry discussing premise, storyworlds, and the unnamed land overrun with giant freaking spiders! (If you haven’t read the first parts, you can find them here and here. Go on. We’ll wait.)

The final, and possibly most important element of a storyworld’s premise, is conflict. Conflict is what drives stories, and therefore storyworlds. A good conflict needs to be three things:

  • Accessible: Can the audience easily grok what the conflict is about?
  • Engaging: Are the stakes high enough that the audience cares about them?
  • Broad: Specifically, is the scope of the conflict big enough to support countless different stories?

Let’s test our eight-legged storyworld against these criteria and see how it looks.

  • Accessible: The conflict is humans versus giant aliens spiders who want to enslave and eat them. Yeah, I think that’s a pretty clear-cut conflict right there. No one’s going to ask, “But who are the good guys in this scenario?”
  • Engaging: Again, we’re talking about the survival and freedom of everyone in the storyworld. The stakes can’t get much higher than that. (Now, individual stories can and should focus on smaller, more personal stakes, but this is looking at the big picture.)
  • Broad: This is actually a little challenging. If the core conflict is humans versus spiders, and the only way that conflict is expressed is through violence on the battlefield… Well, eventually all your stories are going to start sounding the same.

Let’s take a minute and look at the different stories we can get out of the conflict:

  • Facing spiders on the battlefield (duh!)
  • Smuggling supplies into and out of spider-controlled territory
  • Rescuing people captured by spiders
  • Sabotaging the spiders’ plans
  • Stealing the spiders’ things
  • Assassinating specific spiders

That seems like a pretty good start. Now let’s expand our list to other conflicts that are related to the spider invasion, but aren’t directly against the spiders themselves:

  • Dealing with traitorous nobles who have sided with the spiders
  • Fighting or negotiating with human raiders
  • Navigating human politics as we try to put aside old grievances in order to survive
  • Battling the non-spider monsters that have always been here, but are no longer kept in check
  • Facing the unknown while trying to loot reclaim the lost resources of conquered lands…

…And these are just off the top of my head. I think the conflict is broad enough.

Well, we’ve got a tone, a setting, interesting characters, and enough conflict to fuel hundreds of stories. All we need now is a name.


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