Conflict Is Story: What It Means for Marketing Storytellers

Conflict by Joe Kalinowski

Conflict is story. Graphic by Joe Kalinowski based on a photo by Gianluca Ramalho Misiti.

Without conflict, there is no story. It is conflict that defines the story.

Whenever a writer is sharing a story idea with me, I’m listening for the conflict. Specifically, what is preventing the main character from reaching a specific, desired goal. And whenever a marketer references the brand “storytelling,” I’m listening for the same things. Let’s explore…

Without conflict, the story is just a setup. It may be an anecdote or even a nice scenario, but ultimately, great (heck, even good) stories require some sort of conflict. And lest we think this applies only to fiction, this is also relative to brand stories told in marketing. Read on…

Let’s start with a story example. Everyone loves zombies, so let’s make this a story set in the zombie apocalypse. Now, consider your main character Bob. What does Bob want? Does he want to win the zombie-slaying trophy? If so, why? What will winning the trophy be?

It doesn’t matter if Bob is from present day or from the future (a guy from the future fighting zombies is a nice setup!). All that really matter is that Bob wants something and why he wants it can be clearly defined.

There are lots of different theories on story conflicts, but many educators agree there are generally four types of conflict. (Meta irony: Someone will disagree with this.) These are conflicts that work both in fiction, non fiction, and marketing stories.

The four types of conflict: Continue reading

In the event of a Zombie attack

Someone asked me, “in the event of a zombie attack, where would you go?”

Before I answer, I should acknowledge that zombies scare the bejesus out of me. Not the slow-moving, blobs from my childhood. No, they were laughable.

Modern zombies from movies like “28 Days Later” and the remake of “Dawn of the Dead.” THOSE zombies are scary. Needless to say, I’ve thought about my Zombie Strategy.

Hospital

For starters, never go to the hospital. That’s probably ground zero for an outbreak. “He’s dying, bring him to the hospital!” No thanks. You will be eaten.

Supermarket

Most people are running to the supermarket, but there are two serious problems: it’s difficult to protect and there are no weapons. Plus, as fresh meat and fish start to spoil, the odor will become unbearable. A good zombie attack often knocks out some of the electrical grid. Adding insult to injury, your double coupons are now worthless.

Mall

As we’ve seen from two movies, the mall is a pretty decent place, since the variety of stores means that you’ll have new items and plenty of food. Those roll-down steel cages are great for keeping the dead at bay and picking them off. The real challenge is a clean sweep, since there are so many places for them to hide. Although, on the bright side, this is one of the rare times you can park in a handicapped spot. I mean, hey, it’s an apocalypse, parking laws are temporarily suspended.

Police Station

The police station might be good, since they have weapons. But it’s also likely that the doors are locked…and the cops inside are probably hunkering down and aiming for “head shots.” Some are marksmen from 100 yards or more, so they wont necessarily know you are simply looking for refuge.

Discount Variety Stores

Stores like K-Mart and Walmart are starting to look particularly attractive, especially if they have a food section. You want something with tools, since you’re going to need to barricade yourself in for a while. If they have a sporting goods section, raid this area first.

Fire Department

Fire departments are great, since firefighters have axes, food, and those big trucks. A second floor with a fire pole is great, since it’s easy to defend. Plus, they will have emergency medical supplies, communications devices, and generators.

Home Sweet Home

Honestly the best place of all is inside your own home. You know the vulnerable entrances (board them up immediately), you have medications for family members, and you have enough food to survive the initial attack. You just have to resist the urge to flee to someplace “safer.”

So…where would YOU go in the event of a zombie outbreak? (It’s just a matter of time!)

 


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