Wednesday, April 7, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: 1/2 cup Action, 1 tsp Character, Please

I read a few spec scripts this week.  If I was in the room pitching them to an exec, I could easily hear what he'd say:

"Not enough action in the script."  OR  "Not enough character in the script."

Don't you wish he'd be more specific? Even something like: "Add a 1/2 cup of action at the end of Act 2" or "1 tsp of Character sprinkled over pages 45-50"?

("Yeah, why not?" you pout.
 Answer: Because even though the customer can tell you it's too salty or there are too many bones,YOU are the cook.)

There's a delicate balance between character vs. action.  Certain genres tend to emphasize one or the other.

A) In character heavy stories (drama, rom-com), the action takes a back seat.
B) In action heavy stories (thriller, horror, action), the character is often lacking.

So how to fix it?  Duh. It's simple!

A) If you need more action: Show action through character.
B) If you need more character: Show character through action.

Got it?

*crickets chirping*

OK, maybe it's not that easy.

Let's clarify:

A) If you need more action: Create situations that push the character to face his/her weakest trait.  If he/she acts to address the weakness, he/she advances toward the goal. If he/she refuses, he/she moves away from the goal.

ex. Lucy wants an invitation to Schroeder's annual Beethoven birthday party (her goal).
Her weakness is that will never admit she is wrong.

Option 1 - Lucy steals Sally's invitation. When Charlie Brown confronts her, she thumbs her nose at him. She arrives for the party, but Charlie Brown is the bouncer. She cannot talk her way inside.

Option 2 - Lucy annoys Schroeder by talking non-stop while he is practicing the Moonlight Sonata.  He un-invites her to the party until she apologizes.  When everyone at school asks her if she is going, she shows them an obviously fake invite.  Soon her face is up on Wanted posters for falsifying a party invite in bad faith.

B) If you need more character: Show character through strong actions that have consequences.

ex. Snow White arrives uninvited at the house of the Seven Dwarfs.
Her traits are curious, happy, kind.
Let's show she's curious through her actions:

Option 1 - She pokes through their trash and is caught by the neighborhood dwarf patrol.

Option 2 - She hears an unusual squawking and lets out their prized emu out of the shed.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: There's no such thing as a foolproof script recipe, no matter what anyone tells you.

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