#WritingAdviceWednesday – Writing Exercises: Feelings First

Writing Advice Wednesday

I hope you’ve been enjoying Writing Advice Wednesday for the last few months, but I’m trying something different for the rest of the year’s posts. As well as a relevant video essay I’ve found, I’ll be giving you writing exercises to jump-start your new script or novel. It’s exercises like this that form part of my One Hour Screenwriter course, which will help you write an entire feature film script in 22 weeks. You can purchase it at the shop here. You can also read testimonies here that show how this process has worked for a variety of writers.

This week, it’s time to feel…

Writing with Empathy and Emotion

This is a two-minute exercise that might change the way you think about film.

Sit back and remember the first time you walked out of a movie thrilled, stunned or amazed by the power of what you just saw.

What was the name of the film that produced that first profound effect for you? Write down the name of the film.

Now write a brief description of the most memorable scene in that film. By this I mean a scene in which something happens to someone.

What physically was happening in the scene you remember so vividly?

Was the scene you described a scene in which the character is incredibly vulnerable? Is it a crossing a border scene or a scene about entering a new world? Is it a release scene after an intense scene where something terrible or unsettling happens to the character?

What we remember most clearly is pain and vulnerability.

Creating vulnerability is the most powerful tool you have to bond your audience firmly to your character. Moments of character vulnerability (physical, emotional or spiritual vulnerability) are what make a film truly memorable.

This is something that you know already intuitively. It is an important trigger in all the films that you love best. You may not be consciously aware of it. But it is right there in plain sight and your own experience proves it.

Think of any truly memorable scene in a favorite movie and some kind of character vulnerability will be central to the moment.

Remember a time when you felt really vulnerable, alone, rejected, humiliated, unloved, or misunderstood. Remember the exact words or actions that made you feel that way. Quickly write the circumstances as you remember them.

Remember a time when you felt physically at risk, afraid, or in danger. It doesn’t matter if the danger was real or not. What’s important is that you feared for your safety.

Remember the exact circumstances that frightened you. Quickly write scenario as you remember it.

Remember a time when you were on the threshold of something brand new. Quickly write how you felt leaving your old life, old friends, old job or old circumstances behind.

Explore what it was like to face the complete unknown and dive into an uncharted or untested set of circumstances or a new situation.

How did it feel to cross the “border” into a new life or embark on a new journey? Was it sad or thrilling?

Loss always makes us vulnerable and something isn’t thrilling unless there is a little bit of danger attached. Danger always makes us vulnerable.

Remember a time when someone you loved or trusted betrayed you. It can be a small personal betrayal or a larger more public betrayal.

Remember the details of what that betrayal was and how it was revealed to you.

Remember how it made you feel. Quickly write about the situation as you remember it.

Now write the answers to the above questions for your character.

Write a list of possible events that could make your character feel really vulnerable, alone, rejected, humiliated or unloved.

List the specific actions or circumstances that would make your character feel that way.

List the kinds of things someone could say or do to evoke those feelings in your character in the present.

Write a list of situations in which you character would feel physically at risk, afraid or in danger.

What physical circumstances are most likely to make your character feel panic or terror?

What situations does your character find most physically challenging or frightening?

What new threshold does your character cross? How is that a fearful, sad or dangerous prospect for him or her?

Write a list of possible situations in which your character might feel betrayed, be set up for a fall, or played for a fool.

List the most hurtful possible things that could happen to your character in the story.

Video Essay of the Week

Lessons From The Screenplay gives us two very different examples of detectives pushed to their limits, and how they handle being faced with incredible adversity:

Let me know what you think of this week’s writing exercise by emailing me at ETBHelp@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you as we go forward with more of these writing exercises. Next week, it’s time to make it all about you…

Until then, remember- all you need to do is Get Started and Keep Going!

– Laurie

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