[Quick Summary: Delilah is a prostitute whose face is butchered by bad Mike in 1880s Old West. Her prostitute friends offer $1k to whomever kills Mike.
The Kid finds three fingered, bad ass assassin Bill Munny & asks him to partner up for the job. Problem is, Munny found a good woman (who died), & has gone straight, but needs the money to raise his kids.]
I did not want to read Unforgiven.
It's raw & often dark, but I was glad I did.
This is a rare script b/c: 1) the stakes never stop rising, & 2) it's still a very lean script.
A newbie writer will try to "increase the stakes" by action, action, & more action.
Action ALONE is wrong, wrong, wrong. There must be MEANING to the action.
I define "increasing the stakes" as:
A) we must SEE the jeopardy or obstacle; &
B) we must SEE how it makes it tougher for the protagonist to reach his goal.
In Unforgiven, this happens in every scene, even the slow ones.
- We see Munny practice shooting a tin can at 15 yards. He misses again & again. The stakes rise b/c how is he ever going to shoot Mike?
- Ned tricks The Kid into confessing he's practically blind beyond 50 yards. The stakes rise b/c how can Munny trust a half-blind gunshooter to cover his back?
- Munny lets Ned, the only man he trusts, leave town. The stakes rise b/c we wonder if Munny will come out of this alive to see his kids.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The key to increasing the stakes is to run your protagonist up an increasingly shakier & shakier tree so that we never know how he'll ever get back down.
by David Webb Peoples