Monday, October 29, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Hard Times (1975) - I Can't Explain It

[Quick Summary: Chaney, an uncommon street fighter, temporarily partners up with Speed, a hustler hunted by loan sharks.]

**WARNING TO NEW WRITERS: Read about 50 scripts before you read this one.**

Once in very long while, I read a script that is a rare exception to a rule, and I can't explain why it works. 

This is one of them.

My general rule: The protagonist is the character whose arc changes the most.  

I've had writers ask, "Does the character HAVE to change? Why can't he/she remain the same from beginning to end?"

I usually reply, "Because it's boring.  Watching a character change and learn is interesting."

ex. Bertha (protagonist) begins as a self-absorbed lawyer.  Devious Debbi (antagonist) is the opposing counsel and pushes Bertha to grow.  At the end, Bertha lets someone else take the credit (transforms from selfish to generous).  

Here, however, the writer Walter Hill does not follow the rule.

Chaney does not really change from beginning to the end (in fact, everyone else changes more), AND HE IS STILL INTERESTING.

Why does it work here?

I don't know for sure.

All I know is that the protagonist is mysterious, sympathetic, and keeps us guessing what his next step will be. 

All without any big internal change or emotional arc.

That's really hard to do.

One in a million.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: If you can write a mysterious, sympathetic, what-will-he-do-next character without an emotional arc, you clearly don't need my blog.

For the remaining 99% of us writers, I highly recommend an emotional arc.

Hard Times (1975)
Written and directed by Walter Hill

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