New Book With A Powerful Backstory

bookcover ETB ScreenwritingAdrian Mead sent me the following announcement about a new screenwriting book with a compelling backstory. Here it is in his own words:

“I pressed the button on the phone and the first sound I heard in the headset was a child sobbing.  She was barely able to speak, kept saying the same thing over and over…”I just want it to stop.”  It was Monday morning 7.30 am.   My very first call as a ChildLine volunteer counselor.

When I first heard that ChildLine were opening a new office in Edinburgh I started to think about volunteering.  Their website stated, “ChildLine is the UK’s free and confidential, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger”.  What would I be letting myself in for?  I mean, play me the scene where the mother elephant reaches her trunk through the bars to caress Dumbo and I’m bawling like a baby.  How would I cope?

The interview process and training was fascinating. Yes there are calls about abuse, however children also call to talk about bullying, family break ups, exam pressures, homework, puberty, and pretty much anything they feel unable to discuss with parents, teachers or friends.

The fantastic training and the short time I have experienced as a counselor so far has definitely given me new skills and an insight into my own psyche. I’m convinced it’s also made me a better writer and director.”

Okay, at this point you may be thinking, “What’s all this to do with me?   Well, here’s where you come in.

Apart from a tiny admin cost, all proceeds from sales of MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER will go to ChildLine.  By making it exclusively available as a download we can maximize the funds the charity will receive.

MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER is now available for the price of £7.79.  You can download your copy from the MeadKerr site at:   http://www.meadkerr.com/book.html

American readers take note:  Your dollar is going further these days as the pound has been dropping.  This makes the book doubly a bargin.  It will give you great insight into working across the pond.  Here is what UK writing pros have had to say about it–

“In the confusing forest of screenwriting books here is a sturdy oak: simple, honest and true. Highly recommended.”  Ashley PharoahCo Creator of Life On Mars. Ashes To Ashes. Where The Heart Is.

“Every aspiring writer should be forced to read this, at gunpoint.  If I’d had this when I first started writing, I’d have cried a bit, but would have been so much better prepared. You need to read this book immediately.”  James Moran  ScreenwriterSeverance. Doctor Who. Torchwood. Primeval

“I love this book, it just tells you how it is and what you need to succeed.”
Tony Jordan  Screenwriter  Creator of Hustle, Holby Blue. Co Creator of Life On Mars

This book tells you everything you need to know about beginning and building a career as a professional screenwriter. I wish I’d read it when I was struggling to break into the industry. It’s engaging, inspiring stuff – realistic without being cynical, practical without being soulless – and for anyone hoping to make a living as a writer for TV or film in the UK it’s pretty indispensable.  Rob FraserScreenwriter for Taggart, Holby City, Monarch of The Glen and more.

Here is a direct link to ChildLine if you want to know more about the organization  http://www.childline.org.uk/Pages/default.aspx

Antidote to Bad News

girl-blowing-bubbles-etbscreenwritingRecent days have been a barrage of bad economic news in the U.S. Here’s something that may prevent us all from jumping off a bridge. The following article is a great argument for rediscovering how to laugh an play.  Both are great antidotes to creative dry spells and all those things that seem to want to paralyze our desire to write.

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http://www.letsplaymore.com/art_work_vs.html

In a world that demands more and more of us every day at work, at home, with family activities and with life in general, sometimes good, plain old fashioned play gets lost in the mix. People who want a rich full life might be better off pursing play rather than wealth to get all that will make them happy.

Play brings the gifts of energy, joy, relief from worry, clears our minds, and tickles our imaginations and so much more. For a healthy balance in our busy lives play time, for us, needs to be an honored. We need make time for play as much as we make time work and chores.

To get to this point there are five easy steps that you can take that will bring you in full balance.

First, make a list of all the ways you played as a child. If you have to call a sibling, friend or ask your mom and dad because you have forgotten, do that! Make this list long and then sit back and take a look at it. As you read each thing that you enjoyed as a child try to bring back the feeling of doing that thing. When you bring play back into your adult life you want to re-create those feelings you had as child when you did what felt natural and easy for you.

Now write down what would give you that same feeling today if you did it. If you used to climb trees, what could you do today that would feel the same? If you aren’t about to physically be climbing anything, think about how it felt to be in the tree. What would feel like that now? Sitting in a gazebo? Being in a forest? Just talking with good friends? Think about the challenge of the tree climb and the fun you had when you got there. What would challenge you now?

If it was kick the can, dolls, soldiers, even video games, what was the feeling and how can you re–create that in your life now?

The next step is to make a list of all the things you are doing that are fun and playful or that you –could do that would be fun and playful. Work on this list until there are no less than 24 things on the list. Now next to each one write when was the last time you did these things. Write out when you are going to do them if you know it is planned in the very near future.

In this step you are trying to see how well you make the time to do the things that are playful and fun for you. Now ask yourself, what is stopping you? Some may cost money you don’t have at this time. Some may require more strength than you have at this time. You may be working long hours. You may be doing things with your kids or parents that take a lot of time. Next to each item write down what you believe is keeping you from doing this playful thing. Next to that statement write one or two ways around that problem.

Your next step is to look at the next four weeks in your life. If you can get them in one sheet in front of you that will help, or four sheets, each with one week on them. Now get yourself a highlighter, pick a color that will forever more be the color you associate with play time for yourself. Now you are to highlight different times in the next four weeks when you will be doing some, one or all of the things that are on your list from step two. Make the time to play just like you would an appointment to get your hair cut or go to a meeting. Be realistic; do not highlight times when you know you will have to be someplace else. If the time slots you have are very small and not enough to do the very thing you want, use this short time to plan other times or research or prepare or shop for the play you will be doing.

One woman I met told me she worked hard all year, never played except for two weeks when she traveled to an exotic locale. In quizzing her further I found that not to be true. In reality she spent at least five hours every single week she was not on the actual vacation researching and learning as much as she could about the place she would be traveling to. In essence having a vacation while she planned for the one she physically took. She was getting as much joy out of this research as the actual trip she told me. Play can be so many different things for different people.

Your next step will be to believe play is important. People tell me all the time they want balance in their lives and then when I ask them to do the three steps above, and stick to them they give me a thousand excuses why they can’t. If I truly believe something is important you will do it. Giving to charity is important, so people do it. Taking care of our children is important so we do it. Working to make a living is important so we do it. Play is important, do it!

The last step to a healthy balance in life is to make our work play as well. Work is to be enjoyed. Not the perfect job. Not the perfect work. Work in general. Make your workday fun. Start every day with a smile and go uphill from there. Enjoy your journey to the office. Plan to have a good day. Talk yourself into it, playfully. See the good things in your work. Enjoy whatever it is you do. There are no big jobs and little jobs, there are jobs. Make yours playful and fun for you. Don’t get into the misery others talk about, make your own joy. Find simple ways to make yourself smile during the day. Do your best at what you do and know that that is the highest form of play, doing a good job and being proud of it.

#WritingAdviceWednesday – Coming of Age Films and Power of Idealism

400blows ETBScreenwriterComing of Age films, as I define them, are Power of Idealism films.  Anyone telling stories about young people should see a wide selection from the following films.

They offer a broad diverse but incredibly consistent view of the struggles, values at stake and conflicts involved in growing-up and defining one’s self as an individual.  Get out your Netfilx list!  Drop me a line if I’ve missed one of your favorites.

▪  The 400 Blows
▪    8 Mile
▪    Almost Famous
▪    Amarcord
▪    American Graffiti
▪    Angus
▪    Au revoir, les enfants
▪    The Basketball Diaries
▪    Bend It Like Beckham
▪    Boyz n the Hood
▪    The Breakfast Club
▪    Breaking Away
▪    The Chosen
▪    Cinema Paradiso
▪    Dead Poets Society
▪    Dear Frankie
▪    Diner
▪    Dirty Dancing
▪    Donnie Darko
▪    Driving Lessons
▪    East of Eden
▪    Educating Rita
▪    Endless Love
▪    Footloose
▪    Giant
▪    Girl, Interrupted
▪    The Graduate
▪    A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
▪    Juno
▪    The Karate Kid
▪    Labyrinth
▪    The Last Picture Show
▪    The Lion King
▪    A Little Romance
▪    Little Women (1949 film)
▪    The Lost Boys
▪    Love & Basketball
▪    My Brilliant Career
▪    My Girl
▪    Old Yeller (1957 film)
▪    The Outsiders
▪    Pretty in Pink
▪    Real Women Have Curves
▪    Reality Bites
▪    Rebel Without a Cause
▪    A River Runs Through It
▪    Say Anything…
▪    Sixteen Candles
▪    Sounder
▪    Splendor in the Grass
▪    St. Elmo’s Fire
▪    Stand by Me
▪    Summer of ’42
▪    A Walk to Remember
▪    Whale Rider
▪    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
▪    The Wild Ones
▪    White Oleander
▪    Y tu mamá también

Values at Stake – Film

oskar-schindler ETB ScreenwritingValues are defined as a person’s principles or judgments about what is most important in life.

Competing values are neutral.  They are a simple (often one word) expression of a fundamental truth or an ideal a person holds dear.  No value is inherently better or worse than another.  For example:  Freedom and Security are two fundamental American values.

America sees itself as “the home of the brave and the land of the free.”  Lady Liberty is an iconic symbol of the nation.  But to survive, every nation (or person) must be secure in its person, property and borders.  Security is also a fundamental American value, especially in these potentially very dangerous times.

The question is:  What happens when a character (or country) is forced to make starker and starker choices in favor of one value over (or to the exclusion of) another?

How much freedom are you willing to sacrifice or surrender in order to be secure?  As citizens are pushed to give up more personal autonomy, liberty or privacy, when do they cease to be free? Alternatively, how much security are you willing to sacrifice or surrender in order to be free?  If safety measures are too often thwarted by civil libertarians can a nation be adequately secure?

As the risk rises and a nation (or person) is pushed to the brink, it is forced to chose one value over the other.  These choices build up over time.  A final definitive choice should negate or eliminate one value in favor of another.   The payoff to a feature film well and satisfyingly written is to show this kind of final climactic choice at the end of the story.

For example:  In Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler discovers war is the road to riches.  His Jewish accountant pads the factory payroll to save people from the camps.  At first, Schindler resists then, as he gets to know the factory workers, he gives away his watch, then his ring and then his cigarette case in making deals to shield them.  Schindler makes his final value choice when he gives his last trunk of money to protect those workers who are now finally and fully “his” responsibility. Schindler finishes the film penniless and dressed in the rags.  In a Power of Conscience film, like Schindler’s List, the values at stake are Personal Well-Being vs. Moral Responsibility.

In series television, this choice is paid off more slowly and over multiple episodes or seasons.  A television series shows how this choice is made through incremental action, over time, leading to a climactic series finale.

For example:  In NYPD Blues, Andy Sipowicz choses to face his demons one by one.  He battles his temper and his rage. First he reigns himself in and gets sober, then he gets married, has a baby, reconciles with his eldest son, loses that son, loses his wife and cares for his remaining child. Over 17 years the drunken, racist, misanthrope we met in the pilot becomes, in a final leap of faith, a temperate respected leader of the men in his precinct. In a Power of Will series, like NYPD Blues, each choice involves the competing values of Impluse vs Restraint.

Getting back to our earlier example: How is freedom finally sacrificed? What is the tipping point?  Alternatively, what well-meaning policies deal security a fatal blow?   The audience wants to see how this final value choice is driven by faith or by fear.   They want to see how the character is pushed to extremes that provoke action that conclusively defines his or her character.

Values + Action = Character

The obstacles in a film or television series should create the kind of risk, peril or danger that pushes the character to take actions that define what is most fundamentally important or true in a character’s life. This is the case even in comedy.  There is no greater risk or peril than the vulnerability that makes a character funny.

The character should be forced to make a stark, definitive and active choice. As one value is ultimately chosen, the character finally negates or surrenders the other contrasting value.  What price is paid for the character’s choice?  What are the consequences for the character?  The more expensive the price, the more dire the consequences are for your character, the more compelling and urgent your story will be for your audience.

I am still hard at work on my books about the Nine Character Types.  Stay tuned! And email me to get on a Special Offer List.

Values at Stake – Televison

sipowicz ETBScreenwritingValues are defined as a person’s principles or judgments about what is most important in life.

Competing values are neutral.  They are a simple (often one word) expression of a fundamental truth or an ideal a person holds dear.  No value is inherently better or worse than another.  For example:  Freedom and Security are two fundamental American values.

America sees itself as “the home of the brave and the land of the free.”  Lady Liberty is an iconic symbol of the nation.  But to survive, every nation (or person) must be secure in its person, property and borders.  Security is also a fundamental American value, especially in these potentially very dangerous times.

The question is:  What happens when a character (or country) is forced to make starker and starker choices in favor of one value over (or to the exclusion of) another?

How much freedom are you willing to sacrifice or surrender in order to be secure?  As citizens are pushed to give up more personal autonomy, liberty or privacy, when do they cease to be free? Alternatively, how much security are you willing to sacrifice or surrender in order to be free?  If safety measures are too often thwarted by civil libertarians can a nation be adequately secure?

As the risk rises and a nation (or person) is pushed to the brink, it is forced to chose one value over the other.  These choices build up over time.  A final definitive choice should negate or eliminate one value in favor of another.   The payoff to a feature film well and satisfyingly written is to show this kind of final climactic choice at the end of the story.

For example:  In Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler discovers war is the road to riches.  His Jewish accountant pads the factory payroll to save people from the camps.  At first, Schindler resists then, as he gets to know the factory workers, he gives away his watch, then his ring and then his cigarette case in making deals to shield them.  Schindler makes his final value choice when he gives his last trunk of money to protect those workers who are now finally and fully “his” responsibility. Schindler finishes the film penniless and dressed in the rags.  In a Power of Conscience film, like Schindler’s List, the values at stake are Personal Well-Being vs. Moral Responsibility.

In series television, this choice is paid off more slowly and over multiple episodes or seasons.  A television series shows how this choice is made through incremental action, over time, leading to a climactic series finale.

For example:  In NYPD Blue, Andy Sipowicz choses to face his demons one by one.  He battles his temper and his rage. First he reigns himself in and gets sober, then he gets married, has a baby, reconciles with his eldest son, loses that son, loses his wife and cares for his remaining child. Over 17 years the drunken, racist, misanthrope we met in the pilot becomes, in a final leap of faith, a temperate respected leader of the men in his precinct. In a Power of Will series, like NYPD Blue, each choice involves the competing values of Impulse vs Restraint.

Getting back to our earlier example: How is freedom finally sacrificed? What is the tipping point?  Alternatively, what well-meaning policies deal security a fatal blow?   The audience wants to see how this final value choice is driven by faith or by fear.   They want to see how the character is pushed to extremes that provoke action that conclusively defines his or her character.

Values + Action = Character

The obstacles in a film or television series should create the kind of risk, peril or danger that pushes the character to take actions that define what is most fundamentally important or true in a character’s life. This is the case even in comedy.  There is no greater risk or peril than the vulnerability that makes a character funny.

The character should be forced to make a stark, definitive and active choice. As one value is ultimately chosen, the character finally negates or surrenders the other contrasting value.  What price is paid for the character’s choice?  What are the consequences for the character?  The more expensive the price, the more dire the consequences are for your character, the more compelling and urgent your story will be for your audience.

Emotional Status Quo

Brokovich-ETBScreenwritingI drove along the Great Ocean Road along the West Coast of Victoria to the Twelve Apostles Rock formations.  It was a spectacular and slightly harrowing journey with a friend.  Lots of fog and high twisty mountain roads on the very dark way back.

Along the way we got to talking about the emotional status quo of characters.  Too often characters seem to have emotional amnesia, especially when off stage for a couple of scenes.  What’s a character’s emotional status quo?

It’s the emotional temperature of the character when he or she enters a scene.  What has happened to the character in the previous scene?  How does that event drive the character into the next scene?  If, for example, the character’s internal Fear is activated how is that made external in action in the next scene?

Where on the Character Map does the character move?  Does the Fear drive the character to act against his or her self-interest by lashing out with a Trouble Trait?  Or does the Fear drive the character to retreat into his or her Mask?  Perhaps the character tries to cope with the Fear by pushing forward with the Strongest Trait.

Each scene must build on the emotion of the previous scene.  Each scene must be propelled by cause and effect. In other words, your character does something, which causes something else to happen or forces the character to try a different tactic.  This has an effect on the character’s emotions which causes your character to do something else, etc.

Each and every scene must have conflict, conflict, conflict. Without conflict there is no way to struggle toward a character’s inner truth.  Without conflict, the audience has no edge-of-the-seat eagerness and excitement to see what will happen next.

Your principle character must drive the action in each individual scene and in the cumulative sequences.  His or her actions must set off the chain of events that propel the story forward.  If all your main character is doing is reacting to the actions of others, rethink the scene or sequence.  What can your character do to set events in motion?

Here are some examples from Erin Brockovich:  Erin’s vulnerability and Fear is activated by the disapproval of the office staff.  That leads her to lash out with her confrontational and defensive Trouble Traits. When she needs help the staff rejects her.  That activates her Strongest Traits. She takes on the problem alone and her determination and moral concern leads her to investigate the toxic spill.

INT. MASRY & VITITOE – RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Morning. Erin walks in, wearing her usual garb.  She passes
the coffee area, where Jane, Brenda, and Anna are milling.
Brenda sees her, gives Anna a nudge.  They both check out her
short hem.  Anna nudges Jane, who looks as well.  Erin
glances over just in time to see all three of them staring at
her judgmentally.  She stops in her tracks and stares back.

ERIN
Y’all got something you wanna discuss?

The women go back to stirring their coffees.  Erin walks on.

INT. MASRY & VITITOE – ED’S OFFICE – DAY

Ed is walking into his office with a coffee cup in his hand
when he trips over the same box of files again.

ED
Damn it!
(calling out)
Brenda!
(no answer)
BRENDA!

INT. MASRY & VITITOE – FILE ROOM – DAY

Erin is alone, filing as she talks on the phone.

ED
Where’s Anna?

ERIN
Out to lunch with the girls.

ED
Oh. Huh.
(beat)
Well, look, I have to open a file. Real
estate thing. Pro-bono.

He plunks the box of papers & files on her desk.  She stares
at it, with no idea of how to go about that.

ERIN
Oh.  Okay.

He sees her staring at the box.

ED
You do know how to do that, don’t you?

ERIN
Yeah.  I got it.  No problem.

ED
Good.

Ed heads out, but pauses before leaving.

ED
You’re a girl.

ERIN
Excuse me?

ED
How come you’re not at lunch with the
girls?  You’re a girl.

ERIN
I guess I’m not the right kind.

Erin goes back to work. Ed starts out then stops.

ED
Look, you may want to – I mean, now that
you’re working here – you may want to
rethink your..wardrobe a little.

ERIN
Why is that?

ED
Well…I think maybe..some of the girls
are a little uncomfortable because of
what you wear.

ERIN
Is that so? Well, it just so happens, I
think I look nice. And as long as I have
one ass instead of two, like most of the
“girls” you have working here, I’m gonna
wear what I like if that’s alright with
you?

Ed hides a smile. He nods. As he exits, Erin returns to work
and remarks, without looking up….

ERIN (CONT’D)
You may want to re-think those ties you
wear..

Suddenly self-conscious, Ed looks down to his chest…

INT. MASRY & VITITOE – FILE ROOM – NIGHT

Erin is at her desk, staring bewildered at the files from the
box Ed gave her, which are now spread across her desktop.
She sees Anna packing up her things to leave.

ERIN
Anna?  With this real-estate stuff —
could you remind me, cause I’m a little
confused about how exactly we do that.
Why are there medical records and blood
samples in real estate files?

ANNA
(exasperated)
Erin, you’ve been here long enough.  If
you don’t know how to do your job by now,
I am not about to do it for you.

Loss and Grief

grief-ETB ScreenwritingI am busy getting ready to leave for Australia on Tuesday.  This is my second trip “down under.”  I really love Melbourne and this trip I will have a chance to visit Sydney as well.

I’ll be working on a long-running drama. series  Those kinds of shows (or any television show or feature film) have issues of loss and grief at their core.

Whenever a character is disappointed, rejected, humiliated or spurned (or has a set-back of any kind), he or she experiences a loss.  This could be a loss of self-esteem, pride, self-confidence or hope for the future.  It could be the loss of a love interest, an opportunity, a job or a friendship.

The question is, how does experiencing this loss reveal character?  Is the character experiencing the full range of emotion?  How does the character’s reaction provide plot and story opportunities?

The loss and grief cycle includes these character revealing steps:

1.  Shock: Paralysis “I can’t believe this is happening.”
How do we see the character in shock?  What does he or she do?
2.  Denial: Disbelief “There must be some mistake.”
How does the character actively deny the situation?  What does he or she do that is contrary to the facts?
3. Anger: Outrage “I won’t stand for this.”  “This isn’t right.”
How does the character act out his or her anger.  What action shows the character taking out his or anger on others?
4. Guilt/Shame/Blame:  Fault  “It’s all because of you.”  “I never should have…”
What does the character do to shift the blame?  How does the character blame him or her self?  What does the character do as a result?
5. Acting Out:  Rebellion “Screw it.”
What does the character do to rebel against or defy the situtation?  What happens as a result?
6. Bargaining: Deal-making “I promise…”  “If only you will let…”
How does the character make deals or promises or beg for help?  How do we seek this active desperation?
7.  Depression: Realization  “There is no way out.”  “This is really happening.”
How do we see the character come to grips with the reality of the situation?  What doe the character do?
8. Testing: New Reality “Maybe I can survive this if I…”  “Maybe I still could…”  “What if I do this instead?
How does the character test or try on new ways of being, acting or thinking?  How does the character make the best of the situation, as bad as it is?
9.  Acceptance: Forward “Even if the worst happens, I will be okay.”
How does the character accept his or her fate, however dire?  What leap of faith does the character make?  How does the character make it okay for him or her self    and/or others?

Show the character moving through the whole process of grief and anger.  Create plot points that incorporate each step.  Allow your character to fully experience and act on each step.   Create action (not just dialog) that reveal the character’s inner depths.

#WritingAdviceWednesday – Making It Personal

writers_block ETB ScreenwritingI was talking to a friend in London on phone today about storytelling and how to liberate one’s self and others to tell their own stories.  How do you unblock yourself?

A quick writing exercise is the best way I’ve found to quit obsessing and start writing.  Here are some examples.

Set a timer for fifteen minutes and choose one of the following:

1.  Write about something or someone you left behind.  Then do the same for your character.  Who or what has your character left behind?  Why?

2.  Write about an unexpected moment of kindness.  Then do the same for your character.  What small bit of consideration or compassion suddenly upended your character’s expectations?

3.  Write about something you have in excess.  Then do the same for your character.  What does your character have too much of?  What happens as a result?

4.  Write about the exact moment you knew you loved someone.  Then do the same for your character.  What was the specific moment, time, place, observation or activity that said “this is the one”?  What did the character do as a result?

6.  Write about a hole in your life.  Then do the same for your character.  What is missing in your character?  What feels like a big empty space in your character’s life or self?

These small explorations sometimes are just enough to break open a new area in yourself or in your character.  I think of them as priming the creative pump.   When you are blocked or stymied the best thing to do is write something– write anything.  The simple act of writing will get your creative juices flowing again.

My eBook The One Hour Screenwriter provides lots more exercises and ideas to keep you writing until your screenplay is done.

Relativity and Human Personality

Leonard-Susskind-etbscreenwritingI read this in a fascinating discussion of Leonard Susskind’s new book The Black Hole War:

“Einstein, in the special theory of relativity, proved that different observers, in different states of motion, see different realities.”

That universal statement of the laws of physics and humanity is at the essence of the Nine Character Types.

The Nine Character Types details how individuals are propelled into action.  These different states of motion (and motivation) cause different kinds of characters to see the world vastly differently.  Each Character Type has a unique perspective based on his or her actions.  And any character’s actions define his or her perspective

There are only three possible biological responses (actions) in response to anything.  These are Fight (Confront), Flight (Withdraw) or Submit (Embrace).

Each Character Type has:  1) Immediate Tactics (what the character does in response to an unexpected problem, challenge, threat or opportunity;  2) a Long-term Orientation (what the character does in response to any ongoing situation;  3) Strategic Approach the character uses to obtain any long-term goal or objective.

A character (and any human being) has a flight, flight or submit response to each of these differing situations.  Conflicting impulses and actions create the internal tension and conflict a character feels.

Let’s take a Power of Love mom as an example:  She bops her son over the head to discipline him when he brings home a bad report card from school (unexpected problem), gives him a warm embrace to tell him she loves him (on-going relationship/situation), and then bops him again to get him motivated to get better grades (achieve her long goal of having her son better himself).

These conflicting impulses will cause many an internal conflict in the mother over the years– the conflicting desire to smack a kid and embrace him.

Any Character Type can be a mom and each has a vastly different approach to parenting.  I used the Power of Love mom because she is a strong character stereotype easily recognized for the purpose of example.

Make the Strongest Choice

Scales Justice ETBScreenwriterI recently did a film consulting job for a very talented screenwriter.  The script involved a romantic rivalry subplot.  Two men were in love with the same woman.

One man was rich and powerful.  The other man was poor but intelligent and savvy.  Both men needed the other to succeed and they owed substantial debts of honor and respect to each other.

The woman was the rich and powerful man’s servant.  My first question about this romantic triangle was– what would drive the powerful and important man the most crazy?

Would this influential pillar of the community be driven to extremes if the intelligent and savvy man stole his servant or his WIFE?  The answer is, of course, is his wife.

That much more intimate betrayal would produce a nuclear reaction of outrage, shame and revenge.  No servant girl, however, beautiful and desirable, matches the humiliation of being cuckolded by one’s wife and best friend.

In another consulting job, two best friends decide to embark on a road trip.  The night before they leave they hook up with some local girls.  The girls are generally supportive of the two guys’ dream of heading out on the open road.

What would cause more conflict?  Telling your FIANCE that you are leaving town indefinitely or some easy-going girls you might never see again.  The answer is clear.  Telling your fiance involves intense angst, incredible turmoil and probably a torrent of tears.  (Along with a lot of guilt over a loved one’s sense of abandonment)

Always ask yourself– What would make the situation more impossible?  What would torture your character more intensely.  Then make the strongest choice.  Ramp up the conflict.  Make it more personal.  Make it more intimate and emotional.  The higher the stakes for the character the more the audience cares about what happens next.