Let’s take a scene where our hero changes a flat tire on his car in his driveway. He pries off the hubcap, he loosens the lug nuts, he jacks up the car, he removes the wheel, he puts on the spare tire, he replaces the lug nuts, he lowers the car, he makes sure the lug nuts are tight, then he replaces the hubcap.

Boring. Do we care about the hero? Do we think he’s skilled? Do we think he’s heroic? Do we think he’s accomplished anything by changing the tire? Are you emotionally involved in the story?

Now let’s take that same scene – but this time the car with the flat tire is on the side of a very busy freeway with trucks zooming past at 60mph. The trucks come within inches of our hero. And it’s raining… hard. The rain is coming down so hard that our hero can hardly see the lug nuts… can the truck drivers see him on the side of the road? He pries off the hubcap, he loosens the lug nuts, he jacks up the car, he removes the wheel, he puts on the spare tire, he replaces the lug nuts, he lowers the car, he makes sure the lug nuts are tight, then he replaces the hubcap… while dozens of trucks zip past, almost hitting him. He’s splashed with water again and again.

That was the exact same scene – just with more conflict. Do you worry that the hero will get hit by a truck? Do you think he must be skilled to change the tire in these conditions? Are you emotionally involved in the story? When he gets back in his car and drives off, do you feel like he’s really accomplished something by changing the tire… and surviving? Was this a victory?

The second scene is more satisfying and emotionally involving because our hero has to overcome a greater challenge in order to succeed.  The bigger the problem, the more we want to cheer when the hero resolves it.

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