It’s a Postless Wednesday due to overworkage.
But I wanted to leave you guys with an actionable tip you can apply to the screenplay you’re working on RIGHT NOW. And it’s inspired by that Spiderman Homecoming twist (spoiler) where it’s revealed that Peter Parker’s Homecoming date is the daughter of the Vulture (the film’s villain).
There’s a reason this scene works so well. And it’s based on a screenwriting lesson that took me over a DECADE to learn. Audiences always respond better to CHARACTER-BASED choices than they do ACTION-BASED choices. Audiences are a lot more connected to your characters than they are the big sweeping action-related events that push the plot along. For example, I read an apocalypse script not long ago, and the writer kept blowing up major cities, thinking that with each blown up city, he was creating these unforgettably intense moments, when, in reality, those moments were empty. We felt nothing.
In order to feel something, a change in character dynamics must occur.
So let’s say you’re looking to infuse your script with an exciting plot beat. You wouldn’t have Jack rob a bank. You’d have Jack’s wife serve him divorce papers. You wouldn’t have Jane quit her job. You’d have her best friend, Liz, fuck Jane over to win the promotion. You wouldn’t put Nick in a car crash. You’d have him find out his ex-wife (who he still loves) was in a crash and is clinging for life. You wouldn’t have the Vulture blow up yet another building. You’d reveal that he’s actually the father of your girlfriend.
Now you can take this too far, particularly when the choice is cliche. For example, the villain kidnapping the hero’s wife in the third act so the hero has to go save her. Just like anything in screenwriting, you want your choices to be original.
But my experience has been that audiences respond more positively to character-based plot choices. Go ahead, try it. Go to your script right now, erase that boring mechanical event your hero participates in, and replace it with something character-based. Someone close to your character affects them in some way that changes the story for both of those characters moving forward. I promise it will play better.