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This ebook is an exclusive gift to subscribers to the Paper Wings Podcast email newsletter. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a database or retrieval system, or translated into any language in any form by any means, without the prior written permission of the authors. Copyright © 2013, Lora Innes and Chris Oatley. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. No part of this ebook may be copied or sold.

Introduction Chapter 1 Man Vs. Self: How to Create Heroes With Heart
Lora Innes

Chapter 2 Man Vs. Nature: It’s More About Dying Than Surviving
Chris Oatley

Chapter 3 Man Vs. Society: Your Hero Will Change The World And The World Will Change Your Hero
Lora Innes

Chapter 4 Man Vs. Machine: The Storyteller’s Frontier
Chris Oatley

Chapter 5 Man Vs. Man: The Hero’s Mirror
Lora Innes


Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

This year for our anniversary my husband and I went to a beautiful Bed & Breakfast inspired by an Italian Villa. It was the perfect place to curl up with a cup of tea, a new graphic novel and read on an oversized couch. I had been so busy I hadn’t read for enjoyment in a long, long time, so this was a special treat. Unfortunately, though I had picked up the book at the behest of favorable reviews, it left me wanting more. A lot more. The simple but consistent style gave the art polish. Relatable, likable characters kept me reading to the end. But I could not figure out what the story was about. Independent Comics Suffer From a Lack of Definition. The characters wandered from scene to scene without direction. The only connective thread was revealed near the end to not actually be the connective thread after all. And then the book ended abruptly without ever revealing what the connective thread actually was. Just what it wasn’t. I wondered why the graphic novel had gotten such positive reviews. In an interview with the creator, I learned that the book was based on her own experiences growing up. Suddenly the problems with the story made sense. Art Mimics Life, But Life Isn’t Art. Drawing from your own experiences is an ages-old method for writing, but real life doesn’t have a clear theme the way that stories do. This is why memoirs don’t recount every aspect of an author’s life; they pick a topic (a theme) and explore that subject using only those experiences which illustrate the point. It takes a skilled writer to frame events with a logical start and conclusion. Not everyone is capable of telling their own story this way; sometimes we can’t see the point of our own trials or we’re afraid of oversimplifying things in order to add structure.
Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

we are desperate to prove that we are “not with them!” I understand why. unresolved cliffhanger—it felt unfinished. miss the mark. it still would have been a story. Gilbert uses her memoir to ask the question: Can I grow beyond my selfishness and learn how to love? Whether she had succeeded or failed. independent comic creators could learn a thing or two from them. I’m not talking about the style of art: I am talking about inflatedstakes stories with the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it hanging in the balance. though independent comics have run as far away from it as they can. As such. Genre Doesn’t Change The Rules. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. using relevant events and tossing out the rest. Like a teenager who gets a nose ring in order to assert her independence from her parents. Conflict is the bread and butter of traditional comics. events meandered until the book suddenly ended. She writes an autobiographical essay about a theme. With no clear conflict for the heroine to overcome. Even non-fiction stories must have a point. Elizabeth Gilbert does not present an hour by hour itinerary of her three months abroad. These stories start out headed in one direction. Stories Must Be About Something. the reader is left confused like I was. meander. Two time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough writes histories and biographies yet he thinks of his books as literature. Conflict is exaggerated in mainstream superhero stories to the point of being cartoonish. In the wildly successful Eat. Love. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. As much as we might be embarrassed by mainstream comics. So independent comics have drifted toward “slice-of-life” stories over carefully crafted and clearly defined alternatives. Just because we are telling a different kind of story does not mean we no longer need conflicts or conclusions. And I don’t mean it ended with an exciting. change course or just fail to complete a thought.paperwingspodcast. Pray. it satisfies as a complete story with a point. Conflict: The Surprising . www. Webcomics authors have added to the mess by telling scrawling epics written weekto-week.When this happens.

Yes. Conflict tells us where a story starts.paperwingspodcast. her orthodontic experiences tap into a common plight. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. your story will be about a protagonist but it will also be about your reader. -Is he strong and pure enough to resist evil on his own? -Is she capable of an . In this book Chris and I are going to discuss five conflict archetypes and show you how to use them to give YOUR story depth. and when we will know it is over. The unresolved action of “will he?” or “will she?” keeps a reader coming back: -Will Frodo destroy the ring? -Will Lizzie fall for Mr. Darcy? -Will Luke find his friends in time to rescue them? But at its core. but the real conflict is even more universal than wearing braces: Can this young woman learn to be comfortable in her own skin? Write Your Reader Into Your Story. This is the magic of telling stories. conflict makes our story about something by providing an avenue for a protagonist’s self-discovery. This journey makes your story universal. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. what must happen. a story a reader can connect with and not just enjoy. Netherfield or Dagobah.Smile. or will prejudice keep her from love? -Is friendship worth sacrifice. by Raina Telgemeier is a New York Bestselling graphic novel and memoir. www. whether or not they’ve been to Mordor. even against the wisdom of mentors? If you allow surface conflicts to lead you to internal ones. In a nutshell: Conflict gives us plot.

Chapter 1 Man Vs. Maybe your readers just aren’t invested in your characters and your dwindling website stats prove it. Self: How to Create Heroes With Heart by Lora Innes The Dark Knight Rises made millions but poor Wonder Woman will probably never get her film or TV pilot made. …or maybe you’re halfway through an arc before you realize you don’t know how to end it. And if you can get your head around the “Man Vs. Self” . All Rights Reserved Worldwide. you can create characters with just as much depth… Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. They both have heart.paperwingspodcast. Ironman or Wolverine… Often we creators have a hard time figuring out what to do with our protagonist after we’ve told the story of their first adventure. Batman and Spider-Man have been around for over half a century and people still aren’t bored. www. There is a reason that Batman is the most popular superhero in the DC universe and it is the same reason that people can’t get enough of Spider-Man.

Webcomics could learn a thing or two from this constraint. Once all Seven Evil Exes are defeated. Can you clearly state the conflict? Chances are. Choosing between saving his son but betraying his master or being loyal to his master but letting his son die. We have talked about this on the podcast How to Write Comics that Engage Your Audience!as well as on last week’s!Interview with Brian McDonald. Think of the stories that you follow. Batman has to face the Joker. Nature. as a result. but the conflict types can be generalized as: “Man vs. as it would seem he took the easy choice. So essentially when the character comes to make that choice at the end of the story ‘A’ is just as bad/ good a choice as ‘B. the story is over. If you can’t define your conflict.paperwingspodcast. Character A must do B in order to prevent/ ensure that C does/does not happen. Villain. the stronger the story. Darth Vader’s choice at the end of Return of the Jedi is a great example. The monthly issue format mandates that a conflict is presented in 22 pages. As creatives. www. you have no way of knowing when your story is over. SOMETHING: We all remember learning about different conflict types in our high school literature class. we love webcomics because they lend themselves to experimentation.’ So when the character chooses it actually shows their growth or lack of. …Or is it? WINGER COMMENT: “I think another important thing to keep in mind is to keep both sides of the internal conflict balanced. Clear conflict creates direction. Self. the more easily you will be able to do so. Man” and “Man vs. Ironman will take on the terrorists single-handedly. And even Scott Pilgrim knows that he must be the one to defeat Ramona’s evil exes. Zombie Apocalypse is Nigh. Perhaps no genre of storytelling presents conflict as clearly as mainstream comics: Hero vs. they’re often . All Rights Reserved Worldwide.” -Leigh Fieldhouse Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Unfortunately.” “Man vs.” Examine your story: What is the source of conflict? The word “story” implies that there is an ending.Man Vs. If this choice were not both equally as painful to choose between it would not show Darth Vader’s change. The Fate of the World in Peril. The official number varies.

.. “Will Iron Man save the world?” is the exciting. Though other conflicts in the story may be more obvious. Self” conflict. Great stories use external conflicts like Man vs. right?! …or mad? Don’t do that to your readers. But “Will Tony choose to put aside his self-serving ego?” is the deeper. Man to bring . Do you simply to come up with another repeat adventure. but he hasn’t really won until he stops drinking and decides to put others before himself.“Man Vs. and himself in the process. the Man vs. this time with extra twists and turns? …a more exotic location? …a sexier love interest? Do you need to kill off more characters this time just to ensure it will be bigger and better than the first and prove “the stakes are higher”? When those things happen in stories that you’ve seen. Self conflict is missing from your story. Everything BUT Himself: If your hero only exists in your story to complete a series of events and arrive at a predetermined outcome (or perhaps even that has yet to be worked out). expose or mirror the inner Man vs. Self conflict. more compelling conflict that makes Tony Stark a character who is infinitely revisit-able. you get bored. no matter what the external conflict is also have an underlining “Man vs. You finish watching these Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. When Man Vs. Iron Man might defeat the terrorists and save the world from a nuclear war. Nature or Man. Self conflict is the most engaging. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Self” Is King: All great stories. marketable conflict.! Dig deeper. When a Man vs. once you end your arc you won’t know what to do next. you get sequels that pale next to the original (although this time with bigger explosions!). www. vs. Tony Stark Saves the world.paperwingspodcast.

In him we see good and bad. Jason Bourne: James Bond is good at everything he does. victorious and uncomplicated. Jason Bourne is a character with the same skill set as Bond.paperwingspodcast. but we see ourselves in Bourne. he needs to stop being a slacker and learn how to treat a girl with respect. www. . We may want to be Bond. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. escapist protagonist because we want to be him– confident. no villain he can’t outthink. but the themes addressed in Bourne’s journey ring true. On paper. There is no scrape he cannot get out of. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. our boy is all grown up and when he sets out on his own we have a hunch that this time he won’t screw it up. James Bond makes for a fun. disappointed that even though they turned the volume “up to 11. no woman he cannot seduce. He has done heinous things and yet he has the chance at a clean slate. And yet when his is a very different story. brilliant.” James Bond vs. He doesn’t get there right away. “Heart” in this case is another way of saying “a compelling Man vs. Bond. Which is the more compelling tale? Defeating his Man vs.films or reading these stories. they might not be chasing us through the streets in an attempt to assassinate us. Self conflict. But more importantly. We all have regrets whose consequences haunt us. Except he cannot escape his past.” they lack heart. Scott Pilgrim has to defeat Ramona’s evil exes. Self battle first enables Scott to defeat the evil exes. Why? Because Bourne is a man against himself. but by Volume 6. don’t we? Sure.

but the explosions are optional. whether they know it or not. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. unforgettable characters don’t happen by accident.Great stories and relatable. will be having an honest and relatable Man vs. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. ! So don’t devote all of your time to developing the tiniest intricacies of a confusing plot or four decades of villain’s backstory and forget that the hook for your . heart is essential. Self conflict for your protagonist. In good storytelling.paperwingspodcast. www.

unstoppable forces. the Xenomorph swarms in in Aliens.paperwingspodcast.” for the purposes of designing conflict and plot. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Frame your Man Vs. Self story in a Man Vs. James Franco in 127 Hours or one of my personal favorites: Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson. “Nature. “Nature” is any kind of unstoppable force that is both primal and pervasive. the ‘Captain Trips’ super-flu in The Stand. Nature conflict is not just about surviving in the wilderness like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Sauron in The Lord Of The Rings …all primal. Nature plot and you’ve got yourself an epic. In fact. www. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. pervasive. the spooks & specters in Ghostbusters.Chapter 2 Man Vs. …until you have to end . can mean the natural AND the supernatural. that sneaky shark in Jaws. Nature: It’s More About Dying Than Surviving by Chris Oatley The Man Vs. the world outside of Andy’s room in the Toy Story movies. The Zombies in The Walking Dead. the sinking Titanic and the miles of freezing ocean surrounding it.

www. Self conflict compels the most interesting heroes. then what about the other forms of conflict? • • • • Man Man Man Man Vs.paperwingspodcast. a topping. External Conflict: In the last chapter.Internal Conflict Vs. Nature Machine Society Man Here’s why we will never run out of stories to tell. Vs. a garnish. Self is the core of every good story. Vs. Tom Cruise and his team of buttkickers go to Dubai so Tom can climb the world’s tallest building with his bare hands. But the part that is pushes this otherwise-unstoppable hero to his limit and beyond. She established that the Man Vs. …but something from the Man Vs. an appetizer or a dessert. But if Man Vs. (Let me re-phrase that: Here is why we should never run out of stories to tell…) Just like with food. Self conflict. And whaddaya know? There’s a sandstorm. Vs. The Ghost Protocol story isn’t about Man Vs. Another way to say it is that “Man Vs. Nature at all. Self” is your story and any other conflict is your plot. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (which I loved). The other conflict types can be a side dish. In Brad Bird’s live action debut. you hardly notice how “conveniently inconvenient” this Man Vs. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Lora talked about how EVERY good story contains some kind of Man . there are only a few categories to choose from but there are an infinite number of potential recipes & combinations. The suspense and visual impact of the sandstorm sequence is so epic. Self food group should always be the main course. Nature conflict is. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

All Rights Reserved Worldwide. The external conflicts are always there to incite. I’m just making a point. agitate and resolve the Man Vs. And it would have been awesome if Loki had been a powerful match for the team. Self” is the internal conflict and the others are external.“Man Vs. sets sail and conveniently gets picked up by a passing cargo ship. Nature conflict with a cheat. Self conflict. (Of course. The Avengers would have been much more satisfying.) Storyteller . This is why one of the only criticisms I have of The Avengers is the all-too-convenient alien invasion and it’s somewhat-convenient resolution. In Cast Away.) Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. www. I still loved the verbal showdown with Tony Stark and the physical showdown with Hulk. Nature conflict is hard to resolve in a satisfactory way. (I’m not trying to trash Cast Away. storytellers just end the Man Vs. Tom Hanks builds a raft out of parts that conveniently washed up on the shore. Nature: The Man Vs. I think a toe-to-toe showdown with Loki Vs. the consequences of which are preserved only by Tony Stark’s suit-failure and the worse-than-death fate of being sealed inside another dimension. Sometimes. I actually like the movie.

It’s pervasive and primal. The storm can’t just suddenly subside and the story ends. Nature reminds the real world of this harsh truth all too often. we risk creating pointless. It’s the wrath of God. The story ends when the hero has faced death and decided what to do with the rest of his life. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Good story! When We Face Nature. Self conflicts for all of our important characters. When we don’t establish solid Man Vs. This is why so many Man Vs. Man . Self story. Nature stories suck… Nature Doesn’t Let Man Off The Hook: Most of us wouldn’t stand a chance against Nature if she really had her way with us. Well. the aliens all just die suddenly because they’re like. mind-numbing. unintentionally-comedic action.In War Of The Worlds. www. allergic to air or something… In Contagion. The Man Vs. We Face Death: We can’t allow our heroes to conveniently escape a Man Vs. Nature is an inescapable conflict. a bunch of people die and some people don’t. Nature conflict.paperwingspodcast. The end. Nature plot worth our time and attention. the internal story is what makes the Man Vs. Self story. he has to if you’re going to serve the Man Vs. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013.

com . The audience has to feel this cost too. then yes. using man vs. We cheat everyone including ourselves and waste an opportunity to actually say something important. we are lying to the audience. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.If we represent a force of Nature as a respecter of persons. This is when you’ve come to the point of creating a disaster just to create a disaster. An immeasurably high cost must be paid by the characters we actually care about or else the power of Man Vs. as an allegory for the main character’s spiritual journey. Physically and/ or spiritually. Nature conflict in a satisfying way is to kill your hero. And the audience knows that it’s a lie. Nature has her way with the Titanic and everyone on it. whether literally or spiritually. WINGER COMMENT: “I think as long as there is meaning behind a nature conflict. If you want to write a good story. Say what you will about the cheesy dialogue in Titanic. www. the world. we waste an opportunity to have our characters and audience face their own demise. that movie does not pull punches. …and then. man vs. They’ll just laugh all the way through our story. One way to give meaning to nature in a story is to use it allegorically. self. and well developed characters. The Only Way Out Is Through. you can’t pull punches. The only way you can resolve the Man Vs. There has to be a high cost.’ does a great job of this. We can’t just watch nondescript “red shirts” suffer. And we’ll never gain their trust this way. (More on this later…) Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Self story is agitated and resolved (served) by the Man Vs. Nature plot. Your characters CAN be re-born.paperwingspodcast. Nature is wasted. Don’t draw the gun unless you’re prepared to fire it. The book ‘Pilgrims Progress. nature. …especially when Nature is involved. That natural disaster costs everyone and every character’s Man Vs. and leaves no change in the story or characters. If the conflict is meaningless. …if they make it that far. When we create a force of Nature with a secret escape route.” -Paul Cox When It Comes To Nature. there is no conflict too absurd. he has to die. man vs. The hero has to completely lose hope. it’s absurd.

the life they’ve lived and the decision about what they’ll do if they survive. He faces literal death and decides to keep going… The haunting threat of the zombie herds in The Walking Dead force everyone to face death on a daily basis.Nature must leave your hero and supporting characters with no other choice but to face death and thus. www. emotional and spiritual qualities until he reaches the absolute end of himself. …or pass the tests in a sacrificial way which costs them everything. in this case. mental. They have to stand before the judge. The victory of passing Nature’s merciless tests will never feel satisfyingly huge if we never see any one fail the same tests. Just make sure that. And to come full-circle. Even if it’s a comedy… In Ghostbusters.paperwingspodcast. Nature must test Man’s . this is why we LOVE survival stories. Nature resolutions. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Because its inspiring to see characters pass the test. That Man Vs. it doesn’t feel like a cheat. There’s even a character whose Man Vs. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. and account for their sins. Self conflict inevitable. Self conflict! And it costs him. Self conflict is his TRYING to AVOID his Man Vs. The purpose of Man Vs. as with all Man Vs. the aloof wise-cracker Peter Venkman gets emotionally invested and risks his life to save New York city. Nature conflict makes the Man Vs. Nature. Nature is to engage Man in a ceaseless battle he cannot win.

Society conflict will cost your hero. Nature. “Nazis are bad.paperwingspodcast. pressures and expectations.” will usually suffice.Chapter 3 Man Vs. you can accidentally end up with such a force of nature instead of a complicated. nor does the hero have complicated emotions toward it. You get Indiana Jones . Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. “This is bad. In the last chapter about Man vs. …except your storm will be made up of human faces. Society conflict into your script. The Nazis. If you don’t think through what a Man vs. the conflict that pits your protagonist against an unintelligent force. multifaceted group of people. The world-ending earthquake does not willfully attack the hero. Society: Your Hero Will Change The World And The World Will Change Your Hero by Lora Innes Use caution when writing a Man vs.” and so they act like The Borg in your script. Nature conflict instead. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. www. If you take society at a surface level. you will wind up with a Man vs.

www. their differences became pronounced when they tried to create this new government they had just won. united. for example. a society agrees on and enforces certain beliefs. after the war. for the most part those differences didn’t truly manifest themselves until later. and things get much more complex. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. The thing that fascinates me most about that war is how different all of the founding fathers were in their beliefs and yet. But zoom into an individual level. Society story can conjure.paperwingspodcast. you’ll never get deeper into the real magic a Man vs. some even turned into all-out enemies. However.) But if these characters are simply photocopies of the larger group with a more menacing snarl and a fancier . rules and expectations. Former friends and allies pitted against each other.(Note from Chris: Lora and I both think Indy is amazing. …but he might lose it all if he takes on The Firm. Every member of a society does not share all of the values with every other member.) You might miss this oversimplification in a script (even your own) if one or two members of the societal group are used as villains. they banded together. This is what makes them so dynamic. I write a historical fiction comic about the American Revolutionary War. hard to nail down and evasive. But viewed with a wideangle lens. We’re just saying that the Indy-version of the Nazis are more a force of Nature than they are a complex Society. in a Man vs. Avoid this two-dimensionality by addressing the sacrifices that your protagonist must make when he stands against a society. In my life outside of Paper Wings. In order to rebel against England and win their independence. A Man Loses No Part Of His Soul By Taking On A Tornado. Societies are made of individuals. Man conflict (which we’ll address in an upcoming post.

By turning your back on society. and watch what it does to your hero when he chooses to stand against them. a privileged WASP. But think through the individuals who make up that group. Throughout the story we see over and over again what taking a stand against racism and segregation is costing “the help. Skeeter. Society conflict should cost your hero a valued relationship. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. a young college grad comes home to find her friends entirely different… mostly because they have stayed the same. Your Man Vs. Suddenly. Suddenly Skeeter has something very real to lose. The book and film The Help took place during the Civil Rights movement in the deep south. But for . Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013.the cost of participation is comparatively low. But throw in a love interest for the geeky girl who’s never had a man and watch the stakes change. you are turning your back on actual people you know. and they appear to be mostly irredeemable. Skeeter would be better off without them. So what if Skeeter never gets invited to another afternoon bridge party? Her girlfriends are racist elitists who make us cringe every time they open their mouths.paperwingspodcast.Never forget that a group of seemingly like-minded human beings will have as many different motives and opinions as there are members of that group. Smith and his agents. She has changed during her time at university and that experience has given her new eyes to see things she once took for granted. Homogenize the members of a society and you’ll wind up with antagonists like Mr. www. The Cost of Relationship.” as their livelihoods and their very lives are threatened. there are stakes.

All Rights Reserved Worldwide. freethinking spirit is contagious. So when we take ourselves out of it. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. if not everything. just in case his idealistic. A lot of the advantages and power he thought he had actually came from the reputation of the agency rather than . Society conflict should make your hero risk something. www. Society is where we make our lives. and he spends the rest of the movie dealing with the cost of that decision. Most of his former clients don’t want to touch him with a ten foot pole. Remy in Ratatouille is not your typical rat. though. he mass-produces it. After his gourmet cooking antics and a freak thunderstorm conspire to separate him from his family. He has become disillusioned with his life as a successful sports agent because the agency is corrupt. what is left? The Cost of Future. He not only writes his manifesto. Jerry is left in a tough place.paperwingspodcast. and walks out anyway. Dorothy in tow. successful career won’t be easy. Not your typical day for a rodent. He sticks to his convictions. living his dream as a chef. and leaves a copy on every co-worker’s desk. When his impassioned coup d’etat only manages to inspire one other employee.The Cost of Reputation. It turns out that leaving his comfortable. Jerry Maguire begins with Jerry writing a manifesto. Your Man Vs. he finds himself in Paris.

And those charms are not just expensive shoes. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. www. At first. character by character. endearing. cannot. can be changed. but can only learn that by giving both up. first when he leaves his father. Your protagonist does not need to triumph in his war against society. cerulean blue sweater. cruelty. vice. In The Devil Wears Prada we are thrown into the vapid culture of the fashion . we see a much more complicated and. As a matter of fact. hope. they take a more proactive role. as it’s mentioned in the post. Andy Sachs accepts her new job at the fashion magazine as a means to an end– a gateway into the world of journalism. Remy comes to see that perhaps. But then again when he finds out that it is dangerous for a rat to mingle with people too closely. Society conflict? WINGER COMMENT: “I think it’s not so hard to differentiate between Man vs Nature and Man vs Society conflicts. faith.Through his experiences working with humans in a restaurant. If it’s a trait. brother and the safety of a rat living a rat’s life. world. Something has to change in Man Vs Society stories. When it comes to society. Man made things. If that was the case. Traits and vices are not intelligent entities. like erupting volcanoes. every single character would be a protagonist. But what is the safety he is risking by taking on this Man Vs. but to its genuine charms. coldness. Both worlds are right and yet neither are.” -Jean Paul The Cost of Failure. your story might be far more poignant if he fails. (in this magical Disney world. and yet bit by bit. What sets the hero apart in these stories (and the story itself) is the hero’s ability to visualize something better. I think the key word here is change. Natural forces.paperwingspodcast. Whether it’s society or the protagonist is up to you. dare we say it. and they certainly do not actively seek to harm our protagonist. etc) he’s fighting society. Remy has to learn that you can have roots and wings. like society. they are the people who are as complicated as the history of a frumpy. we laugh along with her at the absurdities of the industry. lust. Just think what the protagonist is fighting against. where bagels and the dress size 6 are forbidden. or even virtue (like greed. at least) rats and people can coincide in 5Zagat-starred harmony. What does your hero value more than his future? The current confines of his society are obviously not going to provide him with his dreams. Andy falls prey not just to the trappings of the fashion industry. Another way to look at it is this: Heroes always react to nature. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. …except that he cannot convince his family that there is a better life outside of stealing dumpster garbage. Remy gives up his future twice.

at the end of 1984 when Winston Smith declares that he loves Big Brother. he first must change himself. Society conflict that Andy is interesting. Society is a Mirror. www. Man vs. Your hero is a part of the group he is either working to change or rebelling .This assimilation costs Andy all of her relationships. outside of the industry and even inside when she stabs a co-worker in the back to get what she wants. It is his failure that gives power to the message. we all have made self-serving decisions that hurt the people we love. we can sympathize with Andy each and every time she makes a soulsucking decision. Society conflict is a mirror. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. values and all. we can hardly hold it against him. Ultimately. because of the colorful cast of Runway magazine employees. your Man vs. This is why your hero’s failure to change the world can be just as poignant as his success. After all. And by being a member of the thing he seeks to change. mixed motives. She doesn’t change the world. it changes her. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. though we might never have had Miranda Priestly breathing down our neck to get the new Harry Potter book. It’s by failing in her Man vs. And yet.paperwingspodcast. Because really.

Self conflict at the heart. Jerry can be selfless. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. and is even capable of love. Remy is an elitist and a thief. making a difference in her world.paperwingspodcast. Jerry is a selfish. And Remy finds a way to fit in and give back. greedy liar.Every Man vs. …but pull him out of it and see what emerges: • • • Skeeter is an activist. www. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Society conflict inevitably has a Man . Hold him up against the group he is a part of… • • • Skeeter is naive and a passive participant in segregation.

Machine’ there are still realms left entirely unexplored. When done well (T2. That story was born during the industrial revolution in the late 19th century. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. The Iron Giant) Man Vs. Machine conflict. Man Vs. Machine can frame ancient questions in new and interesting ways. Machine story was told.Chapter 4 Man Vs. Alien. The Legend Of John Henry is the oldest Man Vs. Machine story I could think . It’s no wonder why Sci-Fi has gone mainstream. the kind of technology we refer to as “mechanical” is much younger than Society. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Audiences instinctively understand that in the world of ‘Man Vs. Thus the!Man Vs. Machine is the newest of all the types of dramatic conflict. Machine!conflict holds tremendous potential for new story ideas and visceral drama. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013.paperwingspodcast. www. you have NOT crafted a strong Man Vs. Technology as we know it. Machine: The Storyteller’s Frontier by Chris Oatley If your robot army can be defeated accidentally by the likes of Jar Jar Binks. Regardless of when the first Man Vs. we know that technology is infinitely younger than Nature.

These days. The conflict escalates to the point where the good robots have to ally themselves with a geeky kid… So. How Storytellers Waste This Great Opportunity: Before I move on. sentient robots who are stranded here on earth. focus too much on the machines and never explore the conflict. robotic henchmen. Machine conflict gets more interesting as the number of exploding robots increases. you can’t swing a set of nunchaku without hitting a mechanical foot soldier or one of Aku’s safe-for-broadcast. If you or a storyteller you know is using Machines irresponsibly.! Or. There are these giant. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Much. but rarely is the true potential of the Man Vs. please read on… Audiences instinctively understand that in the world of ‘Man Vs. “Machine” can mean any kind of soulless. Michael Bay made this movie instead of a good one. The good robots protect us from the evil robots but that makes it really difficult to stay hidden. www. Machine’ there are still realms left entirely unexplored. most storytellers who are crafting stories with “machine-driven” conflict. And when the Machine is also “Man” – a person like The Iron Giant or a pseudo-person like Bishop in Aliens – things can get!really interesting. technological threat. I should explain that when it comes to storytelling. Potential. Machine conflict ever fully realized. The problem . They can disguise themselves as human vehicles and that’s how they hide.paperwingspodcast. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. rather. they seem to think that the Man Vs.

makes a choice. That’s why the story needs the T-1000. Machine conflict is also the primary Man Vs. forces him to resolve by the end of the story. Machine stories ever. Michael Bay had control of a multifaceted concept that has served some of the best Man Vs.L. cartoons. In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey the technological threat is all Machine.As I resist the temptation to take cheap shots at Michael Bay.L. www. Self conflict is personified by the Man Vs. (SIDE NOTE: I’m not convinced that Kubrick resolved the Man Vs. Bay’s Transformers are neither Man nor Machine and that concept is never explored. “I am NOT a gun. the Transformers movies made bajillions of dollars but who will argue that the dramatic conflict in those movies is even clear. The T-1000 defines “Machine” within the context of the story as Arnold’s T-100 character did in the first movie.! …but there sure are a lot of robot fights. In T2 and The Iron Giant the Man Vs. movies and games overflow with robot fights but robot fights alone will never make true drama.A. Sure. is calculating.! Robot fights alone are just noise and flashing lights. Sarah Connor!becomes more Terminator as The Terminator becomes more human. Self conflict in a satisfactory or appropriate way).paperwingspodcast. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. But the Transformers movies go wrong where T2 and The Iron Giant went . Machine conflict. Self conflict and they resolve within the character.A. That’s interesting because the human is the one with the Man Vs. The Iron Giant. Self!conflict which!H. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. let alone cathartic? Comics.” The primary Man Vs.!however. unfeeling & myopic so we need a human character to contrast and conflict with it. H. The Machine and the Self conflicts take place within both of those characters. no one can deny that his Transformers franchise is a prime example of a wasted opportunity.

All Rights Reserved Worldwide. …Only Different: If you haven’t read my chapter about Man Vs. Whether your hero physically lives or physically dies. So how do we make it interesting? Machines Are Like Forces Of Nature. At that point he is faced with a decision: • Die to himself. epic.I think that the Man Vs.paperwingspodcast. then. self-sacrificial person… Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Nature conflict is made interesting because the Man Vs. You create drama by making the external conflict (Machine. to his old ways and be reborn a new. If your robot army can be defeated accidentally by the likes of Jar Jar Binks. Nature. …and that’s not a story. It’s important to understand how the Man Vs. On The Day Of Judgement: Nature is. the T-1000. But you have to remember to make your Mechanical threats epic too. Machine is actually the least interesting conflict type when done poorly. Nature narrative is Nature’s purging wrath. he must at some point. as in the Man Vs. Self conflict. whether your hero is literally a Man or literally a Machine. of course. his values and his past . she is pressured more and more to face her decision: Will she remain “Man” or become an emotionless Machine like her hunter? The Iron Giant becomes “Man” by the love of Hogarth Hughes while those who see him as all Machine. Nature conflict. • • • While Sarah Connor is being chased by her technological threat. Otherwise. he realizes that he might need to change his paradigm. Nature) so impossible. Machine conflict. you have NOT crafted a strong Man Vs. You also have to make your Natural and/ or Mechanical opposition completely unavoidable. force him to decide once and for all: Am I a gun? The Tin Woodman begins his journey along the Yellow Brick Road convinced that he has lost his heart and become a Machine but as he falls in love with his unlikely family. why robots who exist for no other purpose than to be blown up by your hero (or by each other) …suck.! Nature’s unstoppable power can force the hero of your story to face his own death and in turn his life. www. your hero will just avoid it. It’s easy to understand. Machine conflict. Machine conflict is made interesting in the exact same way… The missed opportunity of the Man Vs. so punishing that it brings your hero to the absolute end of himself. In the Man Vs. the real victory for the hero is in resolving his own Man vs. face death.

WINGER COMMENT: “I love this conflict because it forces us to question our roles in the universe. we accept that it is more powerful than us and our only hope is to avoid it (no drama) or survive it (potential for compelling drama).paperwingspodcast. because then the Atomic Bomb would be the gun we found in daddy’s closet. like God (or the concept of God for all you non-theists out there). the Alien franchise. We are the only species on Earth who have created ways to fly into the air.” SIDE NOTE: I’m getting off-track now. When Nature goes bad. The fundamental core of humanity is its ability to create. created us. But when Machines go bad… When Machines Go Bad. our creativity. Machine story is paranoia. Mechanical Vs. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Creativity is the highest accomplishment of humanity. theistic paradigms our instincts remind us that Nature. Regardless of our personal. We did not invent Nature. in one way or another. Self conflict – then how are they different? • • Natural entities are unavoidable and unstoppable.! Nature. but just to clarify: Your hero might be like Forrest Gump who is so pure and self-sacrificial that it changes everyone around him (Jenny and Lieutenant Dan). We Must Fight: The central tension of any good Man Vs. drift the way of Michael Corleone and become one of the “living dead. dive into the water. Gene Rodenberry likened us to a ‘child-race. because it’s answer may be a fundamental shift in the way humans define themselves as a species. we harbor a collective Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley . According to The Terminator franchise. Perhaps more so than other conflicts. our relationships. and I think this conflict gets to that core and asks the very basic question of human existence: how far do our creative abilities extend. 2001: A Space Odyssey and Battlestar Galactica. and leave our environment entirely by orbiting high above the atmosphere.’ and I think that’s very interesting. Natural: So if Machines and Forces Of Nature serve the same narrative purpose for your hero – to force him to resolve his own Man Vs. We create technology to make our lives easier but the threat of technology is that it will destroy our livelihood.• • Or harden his heart. and what will happen when we become so powerful within ourselves but lose the other fundamental core: compassion? We have barely begun to explore this conflict.! We fear that Machines will replace our jobs. www. Mechanical entities are unavoidable but we believe that they can be stopped.” -Michael Dambold We believe that technological threats can be stopped because we created the technology. came before us.! It is a primal force.

there is always another layer of tension. So when Machines go bad. after all… We brought this upon ourselves.! No matter what the central conflict is in any given episode of the series. it’s like a double-whammy. Whenever one human character betrays another. Machine conflict is the consequence of greed. Ultimately.! …it results in .fear that our Machines will one day become self-aware and turn against us. www. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Because it doesn’t just result in hurt feelings. regret and often mourning. …and they are plotting our genocide. Machine’ story is paranoia. The Pervasive Threat: Something that makes Battlestar Galactica so interesting is the pervasive Cylon threat. The Cylons are everywhere.! They look like us. Machine stories. it carries with it guilt.! Thus. Before I wrap up. The central tension of any good ‘Man Vs. the Man Vs. I want to provide you with a couple of tools that you can use in your own Man Vs. we have to fight because. They’re watching. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.paperwingspodcast.

All Rights Reserved Worldwide. even paranoia infuse this amazing story.! Again. Self.! Those two entities personify the Man .paperwingspodcast. external conflict is Man Vs. despite its futuristic setting.! Hogarth sees The Giant as a person while the appropriately-named Kent Mansley sees The Giant as a technological threat. Man Vs. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Machine element to the story.! The secondary.! (It’s an amazing accomplishment to balance these three conflicts so well) but there is yet another Man Vs.! Hogarth sees Man. Machines Are Not Always Mechanical: In the under-rated film Gattaca the primary conflict is. the story feels very mythic and ancient.! Ironically. The story itself would never have happened if not for humanity’s own genetic tinkering. guilt. Man conflict present as well.! I attribute that feeling to the story’s depth. www.! Mansley sees Machine. as it should be.Conflicting Points Of View: The Iron Giant reveals how important it is that you clearly communicate each character’s point of view. regret and mourning. Society and there is a strong Man Vs. Self battle that is going on inside of The Giant.

Mirror Here at Paper Wings. There are many ways to use Man vs. Man in your script. Poison Ivy is lust and intoxication personified— quite literally. but exchange character traits… ” Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. The Super Villain is the crown jewel of comics storytelling.Chapter 5 Man Vs. Man conflict manifests in the epic form of Heroes vs. Every great Superhero has his one true Super Villain who is the reoccurring foil in his . Many villains are a caricature of a specific. comic books have championed Man vs. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. and it’s the same reason you won’t find the Joker pitted against in Superman very often… Mirror. Magneto is the victim who cannot forgive. www. and his inability to forgive turns him into the abuser. exaggerated personality defect which makes them fun to write and just as fun to read. Man!more than any other genre. but a Superheroagainst-Arch-nemesis provides an excellent opportunity to examine a dynamic range of possibilities in this conflict type. forbidden fruit. Villains. There is a reason that Magneto is not Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis. but she’ll never see it. McDonald talks about a concept he calls “Flip-Flops” in his book:!”Flip-flops is the name that I give characters who are opposites. we’re big fans of Brian McDonald’s book!Invisible Ink. Man: The Hero’s Mirror by Lora Innes Perhaps of all the literary conflicts. The Man Vs. Harley Quinn is the girl who falls for the wrong guy.

Joker’s humanity is long gone. They both operate outside of the law. Clones run parallel journeys. it is his respect for life and his desire to protect it that defines him. Because of the intense and exaggerated nature of heroes and villains. A mirror character does not need to be an antagonist however – this concept works just as well for supporting cast members. and assault other people just as much as the bad guys do. and can’t seem to quit each other. But in our ongoing discussion about conflicts thinking about a mirror or “Flip-Flop” character can help you create conflict in your protagonist’s story without accident. you can apply the same lessons to your own heroes and villains. in order to draw attention to key aspects of your hero’s journey. There is a line that Batman has drawn that he WILL NOT cross: Batman won’t kill. Parallel antagonists can act as warnings for your hero. In Christopher Nolan’s recent take (although it is also a common theme whichever interpretation of Batman you read). These are all mirror characters—characters paired together or pitted against one another intentionally. and Catalysts. Opposites contrast one another. Batman vs.He goes on to talk about three kinds of Flip-Flops: Clones. Though they share many dangerous similarities. Often good guys lie. www. conflict that directly pushes your hero on the self-discovery journey at your story’s core. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Sometimes the results are surprising.paperwingspodcast. WINGER COMMENT: “Something I’ve started to do for fun is to watch movies and pick out what tactics good-guys and bad-guys are using in common. Joker: Parallels In many ways. Joker and Batman are at two ends of the same spectrum. and a Catalyst character is introduced to force change in your protagonist. I want to take a look at five comic book nemeses that have endured the test of time. threaten. they are radically different in key areas that highlight the core of their individual characters. All Rights Reserved . Opposites. Figuring out what keeps them the good-guys can become a very interesting activity in those situations! Plus.” -Robin Dempsey For as much as Batman’s humanity hangs by a thread (he’s more comfortable as the bat than the man). The Joker is his greatest temptation and ultimate reminder of who he will be if he crosses that line. are violence prone. the conclusion is outright drawn: They created each other.

Lex Luthor is a man without superpowers.We see enough of the two characters in each other to know that given the wrong choice. But they solve that problem very differently. XRay vision. Professor X vs. Superman vs.and will crush whomever gets in his way. One is noble and brawny. not caring who must suffer in the process. dorky. Who is your protagonist when he can no longer rely on his strengths? Force him to answer that. www. Not only does he never use his power for personal gain. but he uses his powers to protect the defenseless and strive to be a shining example of good. spending his days as the meek. he is a man of privilege and uses every advantage his sinister mind can come up with on his continual quest for power. Luthor is always outsmarting Superman with ingeniously masterminded plans. Magneto: The Divergent Path Former friends and allies. He is out for personal gain. Superman may be the most powerful man on earth. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. invulnerability. forgettable Clark Kent. freeze breath. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Professor X and Magneto both want the same thing: the end of mutant persecution. he also chose to live in secret.none of that seems to give Superman an edge if Luthor is always one step ahead… Opposite antagonists can reveal the limits of your hero. Lex Luthor: Opposites Superman and Lex Luthor are polar opposites. heat vision. super . These are cautionary tales. Fists. they could end up the same. the other corrupt and diabolical. But unlike Clark Kent (raised on a humble farm).paperwingspodcast. One is weak where the other is strong.

and you’re rooting for him to find himself again. He is the mob boss who runs the town according to his own laws. Matt Murdock is still in there . trusted lawyer who represents clients in Hell’s Kitchen. the more that Daredevil begins to resemble Kingpin. He is a successful. The divergent path adds depth to your characters. because it raises the cost of the conflict. either. Wilson Fisk aka “The Kingpin” is the polar opposite. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. he cannot bring himself to join Xavier in the hopes that humans will ever except mutants. And yet the longer these two men fight one another for control of Hell’s Kitchen. they are capable of the same things. Because both protagonist and antagonist started out in the same place. when will your hero stop.Professor X fights tirelessly for the hope that mutants can live with humans in peace. what will it cost? Will there be any of himself left by the end? Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. we know. at their core. Kingpin the head of a tightly knit criminal organization. Daredevil vs. www. This is the magic of the convergent path. Kingpin: The Convergent Path Matt Murdock is the law. Brian Michael Bendis’s run on the series!makes you sick with every bad decision Matt makes to take down Fisk until Daredevil begins to look very much like the thing that he claims to hate. Which makes either character’s decent into darkness that much more tragic. Murdock is a man alone.paperwingspodcast. !And yet good luck trying to stop reading. and can he? If he doesn’t. And though Magneto has tried both militant solutions (brotherhood of evil mutants and world domination) and isolationism (establishing a mutant utopian society in the Savage Land). under all of the loss and pain.

Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. though it wasn’t Peter’s fault. and force him to change. Is there something your protagonist wishes he could forget? Something he has done that he regrets more than anything? Create an antagonist who acts as a thorn in the hero’s side. Your villain should reveal a fault within your hero.) Peter cannot outrun his demons so long as Harry Osborn remains his best friend. which is always with himself. Green Goblin: The Reminder Peter Parker. Until. This is your villain’s most important role. Man conflict needs to act as a catalyst for your hero’s real conflict. an orphan. Set them on the same journeys. In their final showdown. when Harry takes the Green Goblin mantle on himself. Goblin is killed. Catalysts The point is to avoid the trap of thinking of your villains merely in terms of what cool accessories you can give him or which awesome never-before-thought-of superpower he might have. Green Goblin even kills Peter’s girlfriend. to his best friend Harry’s annoyance and Peter finds a new father figure to believe in him. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. a constant reminder of a past that cannot be erased. www.Spider-Man vs. Write a villain who adds depth to your hero’s conflict by mirroring it or contrasting it. Norman and Peter bond. Peter realizes that Norman is not just a little bit crazy. of course. it was Peter’s fault. Out of control. Ultimately your Man vs. for better or worse. the brilliant young student meets Norman Osborn. This conflict will force your protagonist to stop running— one way or another. lost not just both parents. Uncle Ben. And when Uncle Ben died. but that he has also turned himself into a monster and is terrorizing the city as the ominous Green Goblin. (Quite literally. Goblin might be dead. but he lives on in his son. Now twice an orphan.paperwingspodcast. but also his surrogate father. a millionaire scientist sees who sees in the promising young scientist what he does not in his own . or drive them apart.

But whether or not Batman stops the Joker isn’t nearly as engaging as whether or not Batman stops himself from crossing a line.paperwingspodcast. ! Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. Whatever you chose do. All Rights Reserved . make sure it always drives back to that ultimate Man vs. Self conflict which is at the heart of every great story. www.Can Batman defend Gotham City without resorting to the tactics of the criminals he is trying to stop? Or do the ends justify the means? See how this conflict has nothing to do with Joker? Joker is simply the vehicle for plot.

com . But he was asking me to support a graphic novel. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley 2013. We know we can improve over time. “This is the vaguest pitch ever. except for implying vague adventure. either.” He was right. the most minute inconsistencies in the latest Marvel comics plot or the unforgivable changes to the latest cinematic adaption of a beloved bestseller. We know it’s not all talent. Isn’t it crazy that we comic creators pick apart the inner workings of the LOST island. The art style was original and sophisticated. we are content to give a passing grade on the merit of artwork alone. Most artists recognize that making better drawings takes hard work and practice. Chris and I started Paper Wings because we are passionate about taking our art and stories to the next level. Yet he had doubled his Kickstarter goal. tutorials and mentorship will help us get better. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Instead. But writing great stories takes just as much time. We know studying. practice and intentionality as making great art. the artist focused on his interests and inspirations. The accompanying video didn’t actually reveal any of the story. yet when it comes to independent comics. either. The music on the video was funky. I don’t understand it. not an album or art book. And after watching the video.Afterword Chris recently emailed me a link to a Kickstarter campaign for a new graphic novel with a simple note. I wasn’t sure the creator did.paperwingspodcast. concluding with a promise that the endeavor would be worth my while. www. What on earth was the story about? I had no idea. And yet we mistakenly believe that there is a secret alchemy to writing: Mix an interesting concept with strong artwork and a dash of magic (usually called dialogue) and a great story will pop out. The blurb revealed nothing more than the character design.

com and become a part of our inspiring community of creators. And we want to help you create one. Let’s write stories that make sense. When I lay down to go to sleep that night. We’re so glad you’re here.paperwingspodcast. So head on over to www. have direction. Stories with purpose and satisfying conclusions that move our readers. www. do I revisit the people and places I’ve just “met”? Or does my mind drift through tomorrow’s to do list? A great story is a sticky story. momentum and theme.PaperWingsPodcast.Here at Paper Wings we don’t just want to make comics. Copyright © Lora Innes and Chris Oatley . I know a story has gotten through my defenses if the characters haunt me long after I’ve finished the book or film. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. we want to elevate comics.

or translated into any language in any form by any means. Copyright © 2013. Lora Innes and Chris Oatley.This ebook is an exclusive gift to subscribers to the Paper Wings Podcast email newsletter. transcribed. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. No part of this ebook may be copied or sold. stored in a database or retrieval system. No part of this publication may be reproduced. without the prior written permission of the . transmitted.paperwingspodcast. www.