Make the Strongest Choice
I recently did a film consulting job for a very talented writer. The story 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 but poor 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, business partner, 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, who are new acquaintances, are generally supportive of the two guys’ dream of heading out on the open road. What would cause more conflict? Telling your FINACE that you are leaving town indefinitely to pursue your dream or some easy-going ACQUAINTANCE you might never see again?
The answer is clear. Telling your fiance involves intense inner angst, incredible turmoil, and probably a torrent of tears. (Along with a lot of guilt over a loved one’s sense of betrayal and abandonment)
Always ask yourself– What would make the situation more impossible? What would twist and 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.