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.

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