Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oh My God! Is That All You Think About?

William Martell has a good article in the last Script magazine.

He talks about how the main character in The Incredibles (dad) is obsessed with caring/giving. It's what drives him to be a superhero, save the character that sues them and kills the super hero biz for all of them. It's what drives him to moonlight as a superhero and results in his getting fired. It's was causes him to get involved with the bad guys and drives - yes - the entire story. His obsession with trying to help.

In this light, he doesn't seem like such a good guy. He's almost negligent when it comes to his family.

So I started looking at a few other flicks.

Bruce Almighty. Career driven - obsessed with it. It's the reason for the majority of his actions. What an ass!

Sky High - the kid is obsessed with his power (or lack of it). It's what binds him to his best friend and why he ends up pushing her away.

Collateral - Jamie Foxx is afraid - afraid to step out of his safe world. The world he knows so well (driving a cab). It drives all his actions until he's forced out of it by Vincent.

Laws of Attraction - The character is driven to win at all costs.

This isn't the case for every movie, but it does appear that a large cross-section of films have a main character that in our own personal lives, we very well might consider an asshole. They pursue their lives based off a single desire, regardless of the consequences.

What the writers have done, however, is to show us this one trait, mixed in with several other more palatable traits that endear us to them. We are then able to root for them as the story progresses. However, whenever a decision needs to be made - it's always based off their single desire (until, of course, they get to learn their lesson - or in European cinema they don't).

I love Bruce Almighty, but if you take a minute and look at that story from the girl's perspective, you really wonder why she's with him in the first place and exactly how much of a jack ass he is. The trick in that film is that he is shown to be downtrodden so many times, always put upon so that we feel sorry for him. He's funny and, probably most of all, she loves him - therefore, he must be worth loving.

Take a look at some of the films you've watched and see if the main character fits this obsessive type behavior. If so, are they really likable? How do the writer's get you to feel for them despite their selfish behavior? If it's resolved in the end (i.e. they see the error of their ways) is there a dramatic scene where they realize this? Did it work for you?

While some might construe this as formula, I tend to think of it more as the necessary ingredients for a type of story.

After all, when we tell stories, we're trying to tell somebody else, through story, that the type of behavior of our main character is either acceptable and expected or not acceptable and thus subject to punishment.


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