My friend Anthony and I worked hotel security together, once upon a time, and I believe he was the best officer there. However, he had a habit of downplaying everyone elses contributions to the department. No matter what you did or what you said, Anthony had done it longer and it had been more difficult. Let me give you an example.
One day we were shorthanded and I, being the newest guy on the team, was sentenced to “the guard shack.” It was a little booth, maybe ten feet side to side and five feet front to back, that monitored the only entrance and exit into the hotel. To make matters worse, it was the graveyard shift and other than a static-y radio there was nothing to do for hours on end. I told my friend Anthony about it. His response? “That was nothing. Once I had a sixteen hour shift in that box and no bathroom breaks.” I believe he was telling the truth. Still, a little sympathy would have been nice.
That reminded me of a pair of articles, one from The Writer Magazine and the other from Writer’s Digest. Both talked about conflict and status. The theory goes something like this: any two given people in a situation will have differences in status (the non-FB kind), for example: social class, jobs, families, leisure activities, friends, toys, etc. The differences between them will cause conflict – one will be the dominant personality and the other subservient.
The conflict occurs because of that difference – if the status was the same, there is little room for conflict (unless one of the two people hates their own status and is using the other person to rail against their own status). It’s an ego thing. We want to associate ourselves with those who are our own status or of a superior status. There are many movies and books about the guy who attempts to win over the girl “out of his league (or vice versa). Not so many stories about the guy who is of a greater status, say a vice-president and the girl is a data entry clerk. Those stories do exist, but the guy will have other areas in which she has higher status, perhaps a brilliant mind but has been unable to strut her stuff. And in most cases, the story is told from the point of view of the lower status character. The underdog.
These situations, their differences in status, provide great material, not just for conflict, but conflict that is meaningful to the characters.