- When you have a theme, argue the opposite.
- Weave the theme through the story so that it becomes invisible.
- If you know what your theme is, create a character who starts out the opposite.
- Mirror/reflection characters: the character you should become (often the mentor) and the one you shouldn’t become (often the antagonist).
Character Arc & Structure
- Character has the epiphany (a noble choice) at the second turning point. Then the third act is the final battle. A tragedy is all about the protagonist not making the noble choice.
- There are two parts to a movie: in part one, the hero is flawed and making the wrong choice; in part two, he has had the epiphany, and he fights for what’s right.
- 90% of movies have a goal that is answered at the end of act 2, then a separate goal for act 3.
- After the call to action (and the guy says “no”), an external incident forces the character to go on the journey.
- The darkest moment is when the audience thinks there is no way in hell the protagonist will achieve his goal.
- The character should change gradually, which he shows through his choices – plot the internal choices as well as the external plots to make sure the character arc is satisfying.
- Raise the stakes by moving down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In other words, if the character’s goal is forced to shift from self-actualization to self-esteem to love/belonging to safety to physiological needs, the stakes will automatically increase at each step of the way.
- What we look for in a finale: surprise, insight, satisfaction.
Creating Characters We Care About
- The character doesn’t have to be sympathetic or likeable, but we must be emotionally connected to them.
- Elements of character appeal: recognition (empathy), fascination (interest), and mystery (curiosity/anticipation).
- Pity is the most important way to create a sympathetic character, and often the most neglected.
- It’s very difficult to be bored when there’s tension. 99% of flat scenes are a result of a lack of tension.
- Survival is a worthy motivation, but it usually gets boring unless you add in something else.
- Come up with 20 ways to do everything. You’re guaranteed to bust every cliche.
- When something happens because the writer wants it to happen, it’s manipulative. When it happens because it’s inevitable, it’s organic to the story.
- Draw a character map, with lines between each character. On each line, write down what those two characters are fighting about.
- Dialogue exists for one reason: because the character wants to get something.
- Subtext occurs when a character doesn’t want to say something because there’s something at stake emotionally. The reason so many therapy scenes are on the nose is because there’s nothing at stake emotionally.
- Melodrama means the emotion of the character doesn’t match the stakes in the scene.