What you will learn:
- Why emotions are important in screenplays that sell
- 5 qualities your hero should have
- 6 qualities all successful screenplays have
- Types of characters surrounding your hero
- Basic screenplay format used in successful screenplays
- How to sell your screenplay
Why emotions are important in screenplays that sell
The main objective of any professional screenwriter is, you must know how to create emotion.
One of the main reasons audiences watch movies is so they can experience those emotions on a deep psychological level.
There are four stages to the process of how to write a screenplay:
- What is the story about?
- The characters who populate the story
- The plot structure. What happens in the movie and when does it happen?
- The individual scenes themselves
Within each of these four stages there are two primary facets:
- Brainstorming phase
- A process in generating as many ideas as you can in a non-judgmental, freeform, free thinking way
- Editing phase
- The judgmental, selective phase of going through all your brainstorming ideas and picking the ideas that illicit the strongest emotions
Every movie or TV episode can be reduced to a single sentence. “The movie is about _____ who _____.”
Every movie is about a character who wants something and is visible to the audience. This is the starting point of your screenplay that will develop the rest of your script.
5 qualities every hero must have
The following 5 qualities are REQUIRED within every screenplay format. Without these 5 qualities, you movie will fail financially and artistically.
- There must be a hero
- A hero is someone who is visible on the screen most of the time. There ultimate desire/goal drives the plot forward. A hero that the audience can emotionally connect with.
- The audience must identify with the hero
- A strong emotional connection between the audience and the hero. When the hero fails, the audience feels sad. When the hero succeeds, the audience feels happy.
- The hero must want something visible
- As an audience, it must be plainly visible what the hero is desiring. Defeating the aliens, rescuing the princess, achieving happiness.
- There must be obstacles preventing the hero from achieving their goal.
- When overcoming the obstacles, there must be a need for courage.
- It can be physical, emotional, and/or psychological.
If your movie does not have these 5 elements, it will fail.
6 qualities every successful screenplay have
The next 6 qualities can potentially increase the commercial success of your script writing: (The most important priorities are listed first)
- The story must possess a high concept.
- Audiences will line-up to see the movie, simply on the basis of what the movie is about. That one sentence description that defines your movie. The cast and crew who are attached to the movie is irrelevant to a high concept story.
- The story must contain originality and familiarity.
- The audience must identify with the setting and the characters.
- The story must contain a second-level of sell and sub-plots.
- A second-level of sell is another aspect of your movie besides the high concept that will help draw audiences to your movie. A second-level of sell can also be considered as a second visible goal the hero desires that is equally as important as the main goal.
- Your story must fit a commercial genre:
- Love Story
- The cheaper the budget, the greater chance of commercial success.
- Things to avoid in your first screenplay:
- Expensive special effects
- Big cast
- Period setting
- Exotic locations
- Intense weather
- Things to avoid in your first screenplay:
Your characters must be original, they must jump off the page/screen. Some tips on how to achieve this,
- Developing small nuance details about a character helps them become unique. Habits, their appearance, their behavior.
- Every character has 3 unique characteristics:
- Determines the physical aspect of the character. Age, sex, etc.
- Background, history and environment
- Intelligence, personality. Aspects about the character that may not be visible, but are on the inside.
The following list are elements needed within your hero that allows the audience to emotionally connect with them: (listed by priority first)
- Getting the audience to feel sorry for the character, that they are the victim.
- Place the hero in jeopardy
You must apply one or all of these 3 elements with your hero, otherwise you will not establish a sufficient emotional connection with your audience. Establish these traits as soon as possible.
Motivation is an essential a part of your hero. Motivation is basically what your hero hopes to achieve by the end of the movie. There are two levels of motivation:
- The outer motivation of your hero answers the question, what the movie is about, the visible goal your hero is trying to achieve. The outer motivation determines the actions your hero takes to answer that question. It also determines the plot of the story.
- The inner motivation answers the question, WHY the hero wants to achieve the goal. The inner motivation is typically invisible to the audience. A psychological desire of the hero.
Motivation alone does not create an exciting story. This is why you introduce conflict and obstacles in your hero’s path to their motivation. Just like motivation, conflict also includes two levels:
- The outer conflict prevents the hero from achieving their outer motivation. The outer conflict can manifest in two ways (or both), nature or other characters.
- The inner conflict prevents the hero from achieving self-worth through their inner motivation. The inner conflict always manifests from within the hero.
The outer motivation and outer conflict is ESSENTIAL to your screenplay. The inner motivation and inner conflict is a deeper level that you may or may not want to explore.
Types of characters
There are four types of primary characters within any story:
- Hero (protagonist)
- Nemesis (antagonist)
- The more formidable, provocative and engaging is the nemesis, the better the screenplay will be. Typically a stark contrast to the hero. The nemesis must be visible, and visibly confronted.
- The reflection
- A character whose own outer motivation supports the hero’s. Typically, the outer conflict is also shared with the hero. The reason for a reflection character is to create a more believable plot. Another reason is that it gives the hero someone to talk to.
- The romance
- The object of the hero’s outer motivation, sexually or romantically. Alternatively, this character supports the hero’s outer motivation, but also opposes it. No conflict within two romantic characters will die, it’ll be boring.