Having different "scripts" is what dramatic conflict is all about. As writers, we generate
tension in a scene by giving our characters different perspectives. Let's take a look at the
two characters in the scene we just discussed.
First, we have the headmaster. From his perspective, he is dealing with an awful,
undisciplined child who causes nothing but problems for the teachers and students of the upper crust educational institution he heads. He feels justified in ridding his school of this scourge, and he's firm in his conviction that the youth was rightfully ousted.
Enter Mom, who has eyes only for Junior's sterling qualities. Why, he's an intelligent lad, a model student! The headmaster is a pompous ass, cruel and unjust. It doesn't matter one bit whether Junior has duped ol' Mom by putting on a good show for her benefit, or whether in truth the headmaster really IS a mulish, unfair administrator. The character's opposing perspectives generates the conflict.
How can we writers use this tool--a method from The Actor's Studio--to improve our writing? Simple. No story is worth reading unless it has conflict and tension. Characters who share the same viewpoint make for boring reading. How long do you think you could remain interested in a story where the characters were in blissful agreement with one another? Often, in order to make a scene boil with dramatic tension, we need to give the characters altered perceptions of the same reality. As Anais Nin is quoted, "We see things not as they are, but as we are."
Of course, not all conflict in writing is generated through character to character
interactions. We all remember the different formulas for conflict from our high school
days. We have not only man against man, but man against nature and man against
himself. (Are those basic principles from Ms. Wilson's English 101 class coming back to you now?) But whenever you write a scene pitting one character against another or several characters amongst themselves, remember The Actor's Studio method. Hand your characters different scripts.
Reference source: Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein, (c) 1995. St. Martin's Press. Purchase at Amazon.com.