Search This Blog

Conflicts of Project Runway

For the month of December, I have decided to rerun a few of my favorite posts from years past. This post was originally published on September 30, 2011.

I have to thank Project Runway for inspiring this post. Design competition shows are filled with creative personalities, which make them a terrific cauldron for conflict.

At some point someone decided to wear clothing, possibly to ward off the elements, keep warm or protect their skin from insects and thorns. Then Jane decided that if Dick could wear a bear skin, she could wear a lynx skin. Then Sally decided that if the others could wear skins, she could wear leaves and flowers. I doubt seriously anyone ever wore fig leaves. They would chafe. Nevertheless, the insanity, once begun led to Paris Fashion Week, America’s Next Top Model, and What Not To Wear.

In the case of Project Runway, clothing designers are given a challenge such as make a garment out of party supplies or garden plants. They are given a specific amount of time (usually little), a budget (miniscule), and are told to “make it work.”

In putting your characters through their paces, having them do something that involves a limited amount of time, materials, or options adds tension. For example, Dick may need to make a bomb out of items from someone’s garage in under ten minutes.

How the characters in your story address a challenge will vary depending on their personality types, life experiences, and level of ingenuity. If Sally, Dick, and Jane were competing on Project Runway, it might go something like this:

Dick quickly assembles the pieces based on a firm understanding of how things fit together. He will construct something fabulous and wearable. He will be focused on the construction of the thing. He will be secure in his talents. He will not be worried about what the rest of the contestants are thinking or even what the judges might want. He knows he can rock it. He is probably completely unaware of what the others are doing, though he may turn his critical eye toward their efforts when he is done early.

Jane dithers and worries and procrastinates until the last minute. She will be worried about doing the right thing. She will keep an eye on what everyone else is doing and change her mind five times. She will worry about whether the rest of the contestants like her efforts and fear the judges will hate it. Because she has wasted time, she will have to throw something together in a panic at the very last moment and hope it passes muster.

Sally will toss everything into a pile and stir it around a bit, admire the color and the sheen. She will enjoy the artistry of the challenge. Nothing is too wild or crazy. She will put together something completely different from what was intended with hot glue. It will be impractical and the model will require double-stick tape to keep it in place while she walks down the runway. It would not even occur to Sally that the others could fail to appreciate her genius. Her methods will feel like fingernails on chalkboard to the other contestants.

The fourth contestant, Ted, might ponder, consider, and plan the details down to the final stitch before he ever picks up shears. When he finally starts, he will work the plan and end up with a finished product as the clock strikes done that is sturdy and workable. He will be confident that his attention to detail will pay off. Ted will be completely oblivious to everyone until he is done. He will disdain both Jane and Sally's garments and think they are idiots. Ted will be hurt when the judges tell him that his garment is too fussy and lacks imagination.

When assigning your character a challenge, think about how they usually go about doing something. What are their strengths? What are their usual methods? Then take all their crutches away. Force them to work at something they are uncomfortable with. Force them to work with people with opposite approaches. The result will be conflict.

No comments:

Post a Comment