CONFLICT #1: Tiger

I recently posted a series of articles about how to use desire to define your story, to drive the action and characters toward a satisfying resolution, and to captivate your readers and audiences. In this new series I will reveal why CONFLICT – the obstacles your characters face in pursuing their desires – is your single most powerful storytelling tool, and I’ll show you the many ways you can use it to achieve your ultimate objective as a storyteller: eliciting emotion.


Last month (at the time I’m writing this), Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament for the 5th time in his career.

Witnessing this was an amazing, wonderful and long awaited experience. And it was the greatest comeback in sports – ever.

As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of golf, and of Tiger Woods.

I’m one of the fortunate few who appreciate the unbridled excitement of watching people in polo shirts wandering around acres of trees and grass to hit a ball with a stick. But even if you’re not, you probably heard about this event. Photos of Tiger raising his arms in victory appeared on the front pages of every major newspaper in the U.S. (along with media outlets all over the world).  

So the question I want to ask is…Why?

Why all the fascination and recognition and reactions to this one event, when athletic competitions are won and records are broken in a multitude of sports every year? Why this victory, when Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer of this era (and many would say ever) had won before – 80 times, in fact? Tiger is a legend, and his achievements had received lots of publicity in the past. But it was never anything like the response to this particular victory.

So why this time?

The answer is simple: conflict.

The obstacles Tiger had to overcome to win the Masters were so great, and the odds so stacked against him, that what he accomplished captured everyone’s attention and emotion and awe.

Two years ago, Tiger was so crippled by back problems that he declared he was done with golf. He was in so much pain that at times he couldn’t walk or even stand. He’d undergone numerous surgeries, culminating in a spinal fusion that would have ended the careers of most golfers.

The fact that Tiger battled back from this to be able to play again, and be a contender, was amazing enough. But it had been 7 years since Tiger had won any major tournament.

And this was the Masters, the most prestigious tournament in golf, with the most coveted prize. So Tiger was competing with the top ranked golfers in the world, almost all of them younger than he was.

Tiger is 43 years old. He’s no longer the golfer who can outdrive everyone, who wins half the tournaments he’s in. And until this tournament, he was no longer the opponent who could intimidate his competitors just because they knew he was better than they were.

The pressure of being at the top of the leader board at the Masters is monumental for any golfer. But imagine what it was for Tiger that weekend. He not only wanted so much to win one more major tournament and prove he was still Tiger, he was carrying the hopes of his millions of fans who wanted that as well.

All of these elements came together at the Masters. These obstacles – the pain and the surgeries and the endless practice and the younger, stronger competitors and the expectations – are what stood between Tiger and his goal. And each one of them added more conflict to his story.

This unprecedented level of real life conflict is what made Tiger’s story so emotional – so exciting and suspenseful and touching and fulfilling. On that final day, with that victory, Tiger made the world feel. And best of all, unlike most of the conflict we encounter in the news and in our lives, what we felt was positive and inspiring and gratifying.

As a storyteller, whether you want to entertain and inspire an audience, or persuade a jury, or grow your business and your brand, or captivate your readers, you must master the art of creating conflict for your characters.

And this is what I’ll be discussing in the articles that follow….

– Michael


Read the rest of the CONFLICT articles in this series:

CONFLICT #1: Tiger
CONFLICT #2: Combat vs. Conflict
CONFLICT #3: Follow the Pain
CONFLICT #4: The Nemesis