NYWIFT Blog

Notes from a Screenreader: Breaking Hearts for Fun & Profit

image

Photo via Go Into the Story.

Statistically speaking, you do not have a serious antisocial personality disorder. It’s difficult for you to choose to hurt people intentionally, to throw the only copy of their manuscript into the fire, seduce their massive crush, or cut up the one dress they have to wear to the ball. Even if they absolutely deserve it.

Your story can’t be that well-behaved.

  • Don’t pull punches. Tripping your protag in the cafeteria is worth a two. We feel sorry for him, but it’s not compelling drama. Bashing his headlights in so he can’t go pick up the girl he was dying to date is closer to a ten. It’s a physical problem that increases the distance between him and what he has his heart pinned on.
  • Accidents are lazy. There’s one place a bolt out of the blue belongs, and that’s at the inciting incident. In all other cases, it has to be set up, and best when it’s your protag’s fault. He’s selfish or thoughtless or can’t control his temper, which causes an accident that separates him further from from what he has his heart pinned on.
  • Vulnerability is a superpower. Sad sacks with bad luck do not a sympathetic protag make. What makes your protag putty in the big bad’s hands? For Luke Skywalker, it was the need to prove himself a man. Impatience made him look for shortcuts to power. He was vulnerable to the Dark Side. Plot, drama and theme grow out of serious vulnerability that exposes the protag’s heart to breakage.

Be a heartbreaker.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

PUBLISHED BY

nywift

nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

View all posts by nywift

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

*

*

Related Posts

Notes from a Screenreader: Hoarder Edition

Photo via Go Into the Story. A first draft is a hoarder house. It is piled full of things of great value to the writer,...

READ MORE

Notes from a Screenreader: Pitch Me

Photo via Go Into the Story. Ninety seconds is more than enough time to pitch a well-defined story. The elements that make a story interesting...

READ MORE

Notes from a Screenreader: Well, Obviously

Photo via Go Into the Story. The post “Writing Advice So Obvious It Gets Overlooked” covers the most fundamental of all story fundamentals (thanks to...

READ MORE

Notes from a Screenreader: Bad Contractors Build Great Characters

Photo via Go Into the Story. Like badly built houses, when your characters suffer from faults in their very foundation they can get by just...

READ MORE
JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
css.php