Worrying, however, about whether people are good or bad, nice or mean, muddies the storytelling waters and actually introduces a subtle bit of moralizing.
Some of the best writing advice I ever heard was that story and conflict arise from two simple questions:
- What do each of your characters want?
- What are they each willing to do to get it?
If you have two characters who each want the same thing (a thing that only one of them can have) and who are both willing to do a great many things to get it, you have automatic conflict.
And the beauty is that neither of them has to be mean. In fact if they're both driven by worthy motives you'll have a much better conflict than a simple good vs. bad scenario.
After all, the parents grappling in the stores for the last trendy toy are only in the melee because they want to do something nice for their kids.
Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.