On today’s show, I wanted to give you a sneak peek of Bulletproof Screenwriting’s first official audiobook Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSION HERE), published by IFH Books. You’ll get to listen to a free chapter covering how to craft complex and memorable characters, which is over one hour, from this amazing audiobook.
You can’t have a great plot without having amazing characters. Strong character development will evoke emotions in your audience whether you’re writing a comedy, drama, or any other genre. To create great characters, you need your audience to connect in some way. Even if you love your characters, there is no guarantee your reader will connect with them.
If you want to elevate your scripts and stories – AND your screenwriting or filmmaking career— to the highest possible level, this class is a must. Creating characters that people connect with is no easy feat, but it is the key to writing amazing work.
If you don’t know who the author is here’s a bit about him. Karl Iglesias has been a writer for over 20 years now with varying degrees of success — an option here, a couple of contest finalists and winners there, an indie development deal, many writing and script-doctoring assignments, a TV spot for a Coca-Cola campaign — and of course, his first published book, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, which ignited my unplanned teaching and consulting career, and his second book, Writing for Emotional Impact. Since then, he has contributed to two other books on the craft, Now Write! Screenwriting and Cut to the Chase.
In between teaching and consulting, Karl keeps busy script doctoring for other writers, directors, and producers when the work comes his way, while developing his own scripts, having about ten projects in various stages of development.
Enjoy your sneak peek of BPS newest audiobook in our on-going screenwriting series. If you want to get a FREE copy just click here and sign up for a free trial account on Audible, download Writing for Emotional Impact and enjoy.
I know you’ll love Karl. I hope this helps you on your screenwriting journey.
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Alex Ferrari 0:36
Now as many of you guys know, bulletproof screenwriting has released its first book in a series of screenwriting books that I will be putting out very soon. But the first one is writing for emotional impact, which is written by Carl Yglesias is the official first bulletproof screenwriting presents audio book. And I love Carl's a book writing for emotional impact that had such an impact on my life in my screenwriting. And you guys know, he's been a friend of the show. He's been on the show a couple times already and was on the indie film hustle podcast, as well. And his episodes are easily some of the most downloaded episodes ever in both podcasts. So I wanted to give you guys a sneak peek at Carl's and I's new audiobook writing for emotional impact advanced dramatic techniques to attract engage and fascinate the reader from beginning to end. And in this episode, I share with you almost an hour of this book, and it is all about crafting complex and memorable characters. After I listened to this book for the first time, I was blown away at Carl's insights into character and how to craft characters that pop off the page and really engage the reader. And if you wait to the end, I will tell you how you can get a free copy of this book. So without any further ado, please enjoy your sneak peek at writing for emotional impact with Carl Yglesias.
Karl Iglesias 4:07
Looking at today's workshop, we'll be talking about connecting emotion with characters, the most important thing to do in a script. The build reveal connect process the six key questions for building character how to reveal character on the page. The three elements of character appeal and techniques lots of techniques today you'll you'll get for instant connection with with a character. But this is what it's all about in a screenplay when and even when you go to the movies you bond with a character and the reason you stay from beginning to end is because you want your the character and you want the character to get what he or she wants. So connecting the with the characters what actually allows you to do that. And it's what it's what gets the interest of the reader throughout the script. So the techniques were connected thing with a character is the most important thing, I think. So it's all about characters. Obviously, without characters, there's no story. They attach talent to your project. If you know anything about Hollywood stars are what drives the industry, meaning that when a star attaches himself or herself to your script, it's pretty much a guaranteed Greenlight, meaning is going to go into production. If Tom Cruise wanted to make the yellow pages, it would get made for summer release, okay? So it's, it's a really smart thing to do to, to focus on a character in a story. Okay, once you have your concept, start thinking about your characters, okay. And write a character that a star would want to play. They also sell scripts, because studios have deals with stars. And so they're always looking for material for characters. So that's what they focus on when they try to evaluate a script. Now, there are many techniques for creating characters. But the key here is emotional connection with your character, as I said earlier, so let's talk about emotional connection for a little bit. You've probably heard that term identification, right? When you see a movie, and somehow you don't really like it, something missing in it, and you say, Well, what's wrong, so I didn't really identify with the character, right? Or people say, well, the characters suck, you know, there's no character I could identify with. So what it means then is attachment to a particular character. Okay. When readers read a script, they find themselves becoming attached to a particular character, based on their traits, on their wants, on their goals, who they are their attitude. And we'll talk about that in a little bit. But the important thing is attachment. And the important thing is caring for the character. Frank Capra once said, The whole thing is you've got to make them care about somebody. That is the key. So when we say there's no one in the in the script that you could identify with, it just means that there was nobody that I cared for. I didn't care if they got what they want, I didn't care. You know, if they were on, you know, they were being chased by killers just didn't care, right. And so there's no connection. And the third one is empathy. The connection to characters happens through empathy. This is similar to sympathy. But Empathy means that you're, you're like really bonded with a character, meaning whatever they want, you want, whatever they feel you feel, right. We become him are the character, we like him. So let's go through this process, I was talking about building character, revealing character and connecting character. Now, you'll notice they're all in different font sizes. And I put them this way, because the order of importance, as I said, and this should be very clear to you guys, most books and seminars talk about building a character, which is important, you need to build a character. And I'll go through that a little bit. More important, though, is how to how you reveal the character on the page. Because you could have a great character, and you could have a whole Dosia on the bio and tell him tell me, you know, who they are, where they came from, what type of character they are, what they think their beliefs are psychology, the sociology, the relationships, etc, etc, we can have like pages and pages on the character, which is great. But if you don't reveal him on the page, and you don't know how to reveal it on the page, it doesn't work. Okay. And then, of course, even more important than that is how you connect with the character. And there are techniques available as a writer that you can use that instantly connect you or the reader to a character. And I'll explain in a little bit when I go through that this is the reason why you could have a character that's not quote likable, a villain, for example, and you can still have the real connect with them. Okay.
All right. So let's talk about building a character. Now, there are two schools of thoughts. One is, if you have the time, spent a lot of time building a character by job dossier. The other one, the other school of thought is a professional writer with a deadline, they don't have time to do this. So what they do is they ask themselves, the six key questions and I'll go through each of the key quick key questions. Those that do have the time I'm not saying that you shouldn't do that, but it just really takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. And you've seen that in books. It's something like this basically. Right physical characteristics, you know, name, age, gender, height, their social characteristics, their psychological characteristics there culturals you know, ethnic background education, etc, etc. You can spend months doing this and It's fine if you have the time. But there's a quicker way to do this. All right, the six questions. Very first one is who is my character? As you plan your character as you build your character, ask yourself that question. And this is the basic traits of a character. This includes coming up with positive traits, some neutral traits, some negative traits, what they believe in that kind of thing, okay, and this can be done really quickly. Now, you should also think about the type of character he is. And now a lot of people talk about this, but the reason I talk about that is because there's only four types of characters that you can create, okay? And each of these types have a corresponding emotion, instantly through it. So it's important to know, for example, if you create some point, that's a hero. And by hero, I mean someone who whose skills are higher than anyone else than the reader, for example, or the the average viewer. Okay? This includes characters like James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, right, Indiana Jones, right? These are heroes. And the automatic emotion the reader gets out of that is admiration we admire characters who have all these extra skills that we don't have like superheroes, right? Spider Man, Superman, Batman. Okay. The next type of type of character is the average Joe. And these are basically all the characters that have the same skills and traits as anybody else. They're the average Joe. And that leads you to sympathy. Right? We sympathize. We relate because they're like us. And most characters are average Joe's the underdog, which leads to compassion and admiration, right? When we think of Rocky, for example, he was an underdog. And these are characters who have or don't have the skills that average people have, right. They're a little shyer than others. They're a little less intelligent than others, but they have the drive. And so that leads to admiration and compassion to we feel sorry for them, but we want them to win. And if you know, obviously, if you know from successful movies, a lot of them dealt with underdogs. That's what makes us admire them. And then the last type of character you can write is the lost soul or antihero. And that gives us pity as an emotion. So when you create a character, try to figure out what type of character they are, most of them will be the average Joe, but you have at least four to choose from, and you know, the type of emotions they get that are automatically generated by them. So be very careful about that. And the last soul antihero is the character who basically becomes darker and darker and actually has a tragic ending. Okay, like taxi driver, for example. Lester in American Beauty, actually wasn't an antihero, but the upcoming Star Wars, right. Darth Vader is a antihero lost soul. Okay. So who's my characters? Your first question. Next question is very important as you build your character is what does he or she want. And by the way, I'm just going to use he from now on, it's easier. It just means all characters including male, female, I don't want to seem sexist or anything. So what does he want? That's desire.
And if you've read the books, if you've taken some classes, you know that the key to conflict is desire plus obstacle equals conflict, right? Which to me equals emotion. A character wants something is having difficulty getting it that is the basis of all stories. So, if you want maximum motion, right, which is what you want in script, you can say that maximum intensity of desire plus maximum intensity of obstacle equals maximum emotion, right. So when you think about what a character wants, make sure it's not average, right? Make sure it's a really great desire. And also make sure that there's a lot of great obstacles to it. Because if there aren't, then that's not really compelling. So there's not a lot of emotion. Give your characters and not only your character but all your characters a goal at all times. Having a goal is what really creates interest in on the page. When when a reader read something and famous author Kurt Vonnegut once said, give your characters a goal at all times, even if it's a glass of water. Okay? Because wanting something is what creates that drive. And if you put an obstacle then we have interesting drama, right? So when you give your character, something in a scene to want and a goal and an obstacle, then you have interest. So think about that. Okay. Desire versus need. Remember that desire is not always needed. I see a lot of writers that actually mistake the two. And Silence of the Lambs for example, Clarice desire, what is Clarice desire? They want? She wants to catch Buffalo Bill, right? What is her need, though? Her need is to silence the lambs in her head from our past, right? to different things. Okay, the next question is, why does he want it and this this motivation. The reader needs to understand why your character wants something. Motivation is the mental force that forces us to act. When it comes to motivation, the only person you should know about this is really interesting is Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I don't know if anybody's heard of this. But if you ever want to know all the needs that human beings have studied Abraham Maslow, he was a psychologist who created this hierarchy of needs. And he basically put them in a ladder list with the hierarchy comes from, he basically puts out the sacraments, physiological needs on top. And this actually, self actualization needs in the bottom. And basically, his theory was that, when we have we all have motivations, we all have needs and desires, and that our very first desires is always the physiological ones, you know, safety, food, water, shelter, and then we won't, we won't worry about the other needs, until we actually get the first one. So there's actually a hierarchy from bottom to top as we go along. So there's safety needs, there's belonging, there's self is self esteem. There's cognitive needs, and there's self actualization needs. And the reason this is important, not only to understand not only to understand the motivation of human beings and why they want something, okay, but actually, I don't have it deals with basically, it's important because of the stakes. And stakes is what's at stake for the character. How badly does he want it? What is the character prepared to do to get what they want, I read a lot of scripts where I understand what the character wants, I understand why they want it. But there's nothing at stake for the character, meaning that if the character fails, there's nothing bad that's going to happen as a result. And so it's not important to us, we don't care. Some people call it the or else factor. And the reason they call it there is because the character must do something, or else something bad will happen. Okay. So established dire consequences, the higher you going the ladder that I showed you the hierarchy of needs, the more compelling the stakes, and goes, the stakes get higher as you go up from bottom to top. Okay? And if you know what are the highest stakes there are for human beings is life or death, right. And those are right here, Survival Food, water. So if you start the higher you go on that list, the higher the stakes, if you want to come up with stakes, just keep going up and up and up.
So it doesn't always have to be about survival, you know, could be about safety could be about security. It could be about belonging and need and love, right? Some people's have a need to be loved and have to be their stake. If they don't, if they don't get the girl, they're going to die emotionally. Okay, next question. The fifth question is What's his problem? And this is what we deal with the inner needs, the flaws of the character, the fears, the secrets. For example, in Star Wars, right, Luke character feels the need for adventure. Rocky feels the need to be like he is somebody could be a need for self worth, self esteem. characters could have flaws, obviously. All this actually is in the books. If you read a book on creating character. This is all the stuff they talk about. This is the building part of it. The flaws obviously often relate to the character arc, and I'll talk about character arc in a second. That's the sixth question, right? When a character is flawed, right, we want to Want to see how their journey to the end changes them. So when you think about the flaw that usually gives you the the character arc you can pit the flaw against the need. Let's see the character in as good as it gets, right the Jack Nicholson character, his flaw is that he just hates humans. He just wants to be left alone. Right? But what is his need? His need is that he needs love, it needs to connect with a character. Okay. And when you pit those two against each other, that creates a really interesting conflict. Right? So always think about if you can have a when you create a flaw in a character, if you create the need as the opposite of it, you have you can you have the potential for interesting material. So that leads us to the famous character arc, everybody talks about the character arc. How does the character change? While we're fascinated by characters who change? In other words, why is this important at the emotional level? And executives will always ask you this, if they don't understand how a character changes or when you pitch something they always want to know how does the character change? It's very important for them. And I'll tell you in a second why it's so important. Because I've seen riders I've seen scripts where they don't don't really care about that they feel well, Indiana Jones never changes man actually does. But James Bond never changes. Okay, so they figure Hey, you know, I don't want to deal with that. It's too psychological mumbo jumbo I don't care about, but let me tell you why it's important. The very first reason is because it stimulates our curiosity. Now curiosity, and I'll do that in the story seminar is one of the most important emotions in storytelling. Okay. So when you have a character that has a flaw, and you can see that he's gradually changing, it stimulates our curiosity, we want to know how is he going to change? So let's use the the Melvin Udall character, the Jack Nicholson character and as good as it gets, right. This is a character that's introduced, and he's had lots of flaws. Okay. And we want to know, how is he going to change because we know he's interested in, you know, the Helen Hunt character. So we're curious. So right away, we're connected, right? So that's one important thing. It also adds conflict. In a story when somebody has flaws. It creates conflicts in scenes. It's also a model for improvement. As you know, stories are metaphors for life. They're metal, they're like teaching us how to live in a sense. Okay. So when we see a character that's flawed, and we see him go through this journey, it kind of gives a model for us to see how change goes, we'd like we might recognize ourselves in that character, right. A negative change is a cautionary tale. When we deal with an antihero, for example, who just keeps going darker and darker, who doesn't change, or changes for the worst? It's a cautionary tale for us, meaning that it tells us Do not act like this character, or else this will happen to you. It adds a sense of significance in the story, meaning that you feel after you've read the script of seeing the movie for two hours, and you see a character change, it makes you feel that this story was significant. Meaning that there was a reason why that story was told. And I don't feel I wasted my time because I saw somebody change through the journey. Now let me talk a little bit about arc versus a moment of change. Because what I see a lot in scripts is the writers understand that a character must change. And so they write this script, but they have one scene at the end where the character changes in the changes dramatically, right? And that doesn't work. The reason doesn't work. Because arc, you know what an arc is, right? An arc is not just one moment, it's a gradual thing. So you got to be careful when you plot the journey of the character and the changes, plot the changes throughout that journey to the gradual changes, you want it to be a gradual thing, not a moment of change, because it's not as believable. So these are your six questions that you should ask yourself. And these six questions should give you enough material to create a great character and what they you know, their journey you have everything you need, their, their traits, their desire, their motivation, their stakes, their inner need, or flaws or fears if you have them and their character arc, okay, so you don't have to go the whole, you know, bio, all these things are not that important unless they're actually important to the story. Okay, so let's go to the second main area of the process, which is the revealing a character process and that's also very important. So to give you a six tools to reveal character. Now, everything that I talked about about building a character is fine and important, but if you don't know how to reveal on the page, it doesn't work. Right. You wasted your time. So the first one you have there's only six ways you can you can reveal character on a page, first one is description and name. Okay, you describe a character on the page, hopefully in your description of the character should give us a little idea about the character right there. So it's a good way to reveal the character, and also their name. A lot of people don't think about how powerful a name could be when you come up with a name. I can't tell you how many Joe Smith I see. And scripts, I mean, it's just, you know, boring, if you can come up with something that's really interesting. And also, a lot of times I see, I know, some writers who really take the time to think about a name of the character, it actually means something, you know, there's a reason why an unforgiving they're clean character clean. This was characters called William money. Okay? Because it was all about that. That's what he needed. That's what he wanted. Okay? All right. Contrast is a huge tool you have at your disposal, you can write a whole book on that, because it creeps up in a lot of different areas. Okay? Contrast for revealing a character, for example, you can do that contrast within himself. Okay? In other words, come up with two contrasting trades, okay, and you can reveal them, either, you know, reveal one and reveal the other. And that contrasting one on trade gives you more power on the other one, like for example, like in painting, if you you can count, if you have blue, and you surrender with yellow, it just intensifies the blue. Okay? So same thing, if you contrast one trade with another, it intensifies the other one. So contrast with himself, you can also contrast the character with other characters. Okay. And that means surrounding a character with characters that are the opposite. This is the reason why buddy pictures are really popular, because they usually make sure that the two characters are the opposite of each other. And then you, you see the sparks fly. Okay, and you can contrast a character with his environment. And this is the famous fish out of water concept. You can reveal characters through other characters. One of the most fascinating areas for writers in dealing with scenes is relationships. Right? A lot of people forget about relationships, they have characters in scripts, and they're always by themselves. And they always do things by themselves. And it's just more interesting if you have relationships and explore relationships in, in a story. So how other characters talk about him is a way to reveal a character and this way called gossip and how others are affected by him. And that's the relationships. Okay? If you show a character affected by human character that tells us something about the main character. Dialogue obviously, is a great way to reveal character. And I won't go into the depths of depth of dialogue. I'll do that in my my dialogue class. But obviously, individual dialogue reveals something about character, okay? If the character's voice is unique, it'll tell us something about the character. Tell us where they from, you know what class they are, etc, etc. One of the most important ways to reveal characters actions, reactions and decisions. You can reveal character through the choices they make, especially if the choices are made under pressure.
If a character has a dilemma, for example, dilemmas are something that a lot of writers talk about. Okay? The reason it's so interesting is because the dilemma is a choice between two Lesser Evils for example, we don't know which choice they have, they have to go how many people see 24 I've seen the show 24 Beside last night, that was like the last five minutes right. That was where I go the most intense dilemmas I've ever seen anywhere in the history of storytelling really, it really was a great episode. For those who has haven't seen it, the the Jack Bauer Jack Bauer character brings in a Chinese dissident who was working with the terrorists and needs that the information about where the bomb is or where the villain is, and the character is dying. The Chinese guy has a bullet in just dying and he's bringing him to the to the I guess the hospital, the place where they the surgeon, and the surgeon is actually operating on the boyfriend or the ex husband of Jack Bauer's girls girlfriend at the time right now and she's like, we just figured out that you know, the girlfriend is about to go back with the guy who's like about to be operated right so there's the choice there this check bar comes in he needs the information or where the bomb is or else millions of people will die. But the surgeon is busy operating on the guy that we care about too Right? So he has to make a choice and at the point you know Jabbar actually points a gun at the surgeons and I need to operate on that knowing that if he switches bodies, the other guy will die and then the girlfriend will hate him and boy that was so Really, anyway was really intense, really intense. But that's a perfect example of dilemma. Right? That was a huge dilemma. Okay? Do I say Oh, and by the way, the guy that was being operated saved his life, meaning that he really cared about that character. But he had to make a choice, he had to make a choice, either save him, or save millions of people.
Alex Ferrari 30:20
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Karl Iglesias 30:31
Okay, so the lemma is actions, we actually decisions tell you about the character, okay. And actually 24 is a perfect example. Because the jack character every hour makes all these decisions are technically dilemmas, right. And that kind of tells you a lot about a character. In that there's a trick that a pretty big name writers told me about, it's called a three column brainstorming trick. And you guys will be happy to learn this one. If you don't know it. It's basically you make three columns. First column, you label what I know about a character is called traits and attitudes, right? In the first column, what do I know about the character? Let's, let's say for example, I know my character, his approval, for example. Okay. Now, you're not going to tell us that the character is frugal on the page. That will be telling us, right, you want to show that the second column you're going to label? How do I know this? How do I know my character is frugal, and that's basically exposition. And so how do I know for example, that my character is frugal? Okay, you could have them, you know, at a restaurant, for example, and, you know, trying to like, there with a calculator is there with a friend trying to figure out how to split the bill, for example. Okay. So that's the exposition, okay, and then how will I show it is the third column? Actually, the second column, the third column is pretty similar, because how do I know it is also could be known through how you show it, and that would be the characters actions. Okay. So in this case, in the restaurant, when the character behaves in a way that shows he is frugal that tells the reader that he's frugal, you don't have to say the word frugal at all in the whole thing, right? You let the reader decide. So what do I know about the character? How will I know how do I know that? And how will I show it is a good way to reveal that and mannerisms are, you know, a little takes that the characters have like, for example, when we introduce Don Corleone in The Godfather? What do we see? Right we see him stroking a cat. Okay. That's a mannerism that's the cat is the prop in this case. Remember Kramer's entrances in Seinfeld? Gate. Those were his mannerism. He had the same manner of entering drastically into Seinfeld's apartment right. And that was a way of showing character. Indiana Jones whip is a prop. Colombo's raincoat is a prop tells a lot about the character. CO Jack's lollipop is a prop. Graduate Marx cigar, for example. Right? So mannerism props are little things you can add to a character throughout that tells us something about the character good way to reveal the character. Okay, moving on to the most important part of this seminar. And that is connecting with a character how do we connect with the character? And why do we want to connect with the character, the very first thing you need to know is that it happens really fast. The reason we recommend writers to introduce their main character as soon as possible, is because the reader automatically they're waiting to bond with the character or same with an audience. Imagine you're in a theater, the very first thing you want to do is connect with a character. It's a natural human thing to do. So the very first character you see in a movie or an on a page on a script, you go oh, is this the main character and you automatically connect? Okay, you want him to follow that character and see what he wants? And then if you see, okay, that's not an important character, like if you, you know, introduce a waitress or some URI, okay, the waiter that the waitress is not and so now, you know, you're trying to find another character to bandwidth so it happens really fast. And I'll show you what happens to, to, to a reader when they connect with a character. And the reason it's important is because if it's not your main character, then you know, it's actually a negative thing. Okay? I've had a lot of scripts were with the character was not important, but they if we follow them for about five pages, that's five minutes of screen time. And then we realize that's not the main character, we feel frustration, and that's not good. Okay, so be careful happens really fast. We're critical. We're an opinionated human race, basically. And the second character shows up on screen, we already start building an opinion about the character. Okay? So why is empathy so important? It gives us a more intense emotional experience in the theater and on the page.
For example, when you hear about a jetliner that crashed, for example, and 200 people died, you feel sympathy for the carrier, you feel sad for the characters. But if you know that one of your friends were on that flight, that's a different reaction, right? In other words, the emotional intensity of that is more is more intense, because you knew that person was you, you were bonded with a character. Okay? So when you connect with a character, their journey is our journey. It's no longer their story. It's our story. Okay, when you connect with Indiana Jones, you're falling, it's you going through all these emotions. Let me go real quick through the three elements of connection. The three elements that create character appeal, the very first one is recognition, which creates empathy. And by recognition, I mean, we understand we recognize that character, if we see their traits, for example, we recognize those traits, if they say they want something, and we feel it's valuable, then we want that for them. And so we recognize that and we connect with the characters to the recognition. This is why you see a lot of scenes where the character has a speech along the lines along the lines that I want. I always wanted I dream of, you know, when the character says what they want, we're supposed to empathize without we understand them. fascination is the other element of character appeal. And that generates interest. Going back to our Jack Nicholson character, for example, you know, as good as it gets, right, you can say that that was the most fascinating characters in film history, right? And the reasons for that are actually let me go through each one real quick. Recognition, fascination and mystery. About a character which creates curiosity and anticipation are the three elements. Okay, so recognition is the reader understand what your character wants. The reader recognizes the emotions expressed in a scene. When you see a character that you care about feel sadness, we recognize that and we empathize. Sympathize also. Okay, fascination which leads to interest. So let's look at a Jack Nicholson character, for example. And the way a character can become fascinating is through paradoxes. And by that I mean, conflicting traits, right man when I talk about contrast, right. So paired conflicting traits within the character gives you a paradox. attitudes and values is a way to create fascination. And attitudes are the points of view that a character has about the world. You want to also add details and complexity to a character. Pay attention to the details. I have a quote here by Joe Esther has. I like to see the grades into character. I like characters who have one front and many, many layers underneath. I like complexity. I like to surprise people with different facets of personality. I like the surprises within the characters, the contradictions, right? That's the paradox. You can certainly see these types of characters in in in Joyce who has his work jagged edge, Basic Instinct.
Okay. Can we talk about villains a little bit? Because there's a lot of controversy in the screenwriting world where characters, you know, you hear a lot of characters have to be likable. Okay. And on the other hand, they say that, the more fascinating the villain, the more interesting your script, which is true. Okay. So they will the problem is that they create heroes that are really likable, and are kind of like vanilla, right? They're like really boring. And they create villains who are like, really, really bad, right? So what they don't understand is that the more fascinating the villain, the more interesting the story, but knowing that how you create fascination is creating all these things. Right? How do you do that? And so let me talk a little bit about how you do that. And it also explains how you could create a story that's really interesting. With a character that's technically a villain A good example of this is the Godfather, The Sopranos, right? Tony Soprano. You don't really morally agree with what they do, but they're a fascinating character. And the reason is fascinating is because of all these elements are just talked about the way to do this with villains. And how do you how do you empathize with villains is that you basically add some appealing qualities to the villain. And I was don't be afraid to have the villain. In the case of Tony Soprano, for example, the reason we kind of found that it was fascinating we liked him is because the villain had a family and he loved his family and you love this kids. Okay? Another example is Hannibal Lecter and so on. So the lambs, this is a character that became a pop icon, right, culturally, and this was a psycho killer cannibal. How is that possible? Right? How did it became big? The reason for that is because the writer gave him some good, quote, attractive qualities. Okay, not only was he a killer, but he was also, you know, polite, right? He was charming. He was witty, he cared about Clarice, you wanted to help her. Those are positive qualities. Okay. And this shows you how you can create somebody that you don't actually relate to, in a sense, but because you have these qualities in this character, you at least think that they're fascinating, you want to follow them. Okay. And this is very important, because I've read a lot of scripts where the intention of the writer was not what was on the page, meaning that they created a character that was supposed to be a villain. And we ended up liking him at the end. And the writer could not understand why was it possible that was the effect the fact of the scene, and then when actually, you know, was consulting with that writer and tell them Well, this is the reason why we like him, and boom, boom, boom, and go out. Okay? Okay. And the reason was because they were giving him good qualities, in addition to the bad ones, okay? But this is how important it is and how empathizing is such a powerful thing. So if you give the villain attractive and appealing human qualities, at least it balances that it makes the character more fascinating. Okay, the third element of appeal, character appeal is mystery.
which generates curiosity. In other words, every time you can set up a question
about the character, that's a good thing, because it creates curiosity. Okay. And that involves, for example, what makes the character tick? And what will they do next? You're in a great position as a writer in your story, if you can create that feeling of what will the character do next? I'm so fast with that character. I just don't know what makes them tick. Okay. You see that a lot in Quentin Tarantino's characters, for example, in Reservoir Dogs, there's a lot of characters who are so like unstable, you just don't know what they're going to do next. And you're just like glued to the stream? Right? Trying to find out what's going to happen. You can create mystery curiosity through the character emotions. Meaning if you know, if you don't know what they're feeling, you want to find out what they're feeling okay, in the scene. And there are specific ways you can create and control those emotions and that through the action reactions and interactions of the character in the scene. Another way is think about the events that would elicit a particular emotional reaction from the character. If I want to make a character angry, for example, I want to show that the character is angry.
What event would create what event would elicit that reaction, that emotional reaction and that's how you create character emotions in a story.
Okay, now we're getting to the real good stuff, the instant connection humanizing with a character, which a lot of people have called a rooting interest, right? When you root for a character. How do you create that instant connection with the character no matter what character it is, whether it's a villain was a hero, or it's a minor character, obviously, you want it for your main character. If you can get the reader to connect emotionally with that character, you're way ahead. And I'm going to give you the most powerful techniques right now. Of how you can do that and this happens instantly. You will recognize after I go through all this you will recognize this techniques in movies when you see it, okay, you won't actually I always warn people before the tech my seminars, tell them you will never see a movie the same way again, because you will see those things on the screen. Once you know what they are, you will see them but that's what you need to do, right? You're like a magician. If you see a magic trick, right? And you're like, wow, but the illusion if somebody explains that trick to you, you see the trick again, it's not the same, right? Well, this is what's going to happen. Okay? So I warn you, if you guys don't want to see that, you can leave. Okay, or turn turn DVD off. All right. Okay, there are four, actually three areas. And I'm gonna I'm going to tell you what the areas are and give you these specific techniques. The most powerful one is that we care about characters we feel sorry for. Every time you feel sorry for a character, we instantly connect with a character, you can take somebody who you totally hate. And if you suddenly you do something that makes us feel sorry for that character, we not like him for that particular instant. Every time you feel sorry for a character you instantly connect with a character. We also like characters who have humanistic traits. And the third one is we like characters who have qualities we all admire. And I'll go through each one of them. Okay, let's start with we care about characters we feel sorry for the very first one is undeserved mistreatment and injustice. Every time you create a scene or an event for character, that is technically a mystery, mistreatment of that character, okay, something that's unjust. Okay, we feel sorry for that character. So show others unjustly mistreating a hero, this creates pity. And also if you add brutality to that, it the bonus points on that actually say that bonus points for a defenseless character. If the character is defenseless, it creates more sympathy. So one of the reasons why we felt a little connection to Hannibal Lecter is because if you remember the prior scene prior to when Clarice wants to want to see a Hannibal Lecter. He was set up as the most great Hannibal the cannibal. They were setting him up as this totally evil, scary character right. But when she got to it, we saw how he was mistreated by the psychologist and suddenly we had we felt a little sorry for Hannibal Lecter. Okay, so that was the first time when you create undeserved misfortune now by misfortune I mean bad luck tragedy when somebody loses somebody dear to them, we feel sorry for them. When a loved one dies when your your house gets repossessed, for example, okay, bad luck. One of the ways we're connected with the Kimball character the Harrison Ford character in the future because it starts and how does it start? He just lost his wife his wife just got murdered okay. So this is how the rider may did it undeserved misfortune. Now obviously the opposite of that is that if it is deserved misfortune, right which we see that in a villain at the end he gets his his do we don't feel sorry we feel actually feel happy right? So the key point here is undeserved. Okay, when a character has physical or mental handicapped think of my left foot Rain Man Forrest Gump stars love these roles by the way, this is what gets him Academy Awards. Right so if you can add that to your character, we feel sorry for them. Anytime you set up frustration or humiliation in a character that's embarrassment when a character feels embarrassed in a scene think how many times in American Beauty in the beginning when they're setting up, Lester, when they're setting up scenes where he's embarrassed right when it comes out at his house and he drops his you know, his attache case and all the papers right? Go over and the wife insults him and his daughter insults him that's a key connecting point right there. Okay, embarrassment.
moment of weakness. Anytime you depict the hero when he's at a weak point, we feel sorry for them. You see that usually in the end of the second act when the character is at his lowest point and that could be any suffering, whether it's mental, psychological emotional suffering.
Okay, abandonment when a character is abandoned by loved ones, for example, think of home alone, right. Kramer versus Kramer the beginning when they his wife abandons the husband and the kid we feel sorry for them. Oliver Twist is a perfect example of being abandoned by parents. When a character is betrayed, we feel sorry for them. So betrayal is a pretty good technique. Think of in the verdict, when we realize that his girlfriend is actually working for the opposition, right? That moment we feel sorry for the Paul Newman character. This is something that writers like to do, telling the truth but not being believed, is a pretty powerful technique. Think of North by Northwest when he's trying to tell everybody this day he's, you know, he's being chased by spies. Nobody believes him. His mother doesn't believe him in Beverly Hills Cop when he's trying to tell the police that you know, Victor maintenance or whatever his name was, is a bad guy. Nobody believes him. Think of ghosts. Right? When the Whoopi Goldberg characters trying to warn them or tell him something and she's not being believed? Every time you're like desperately trying to make somebody believe something that they don't believe you will feel sorry for you. All right, moving on. We have exclusion and rejection. Every time you have the excluded outsider who wants in to a club or a family and they're not letting him in. Spielberg does that in the boy Neeti when he tries to play with his friends with his brother and his friends and they won't let him in. They won't let him be part of the group and we feel sorry for him. Along the same lines, we have loneliness and neglect. When we open Citizen Kane and the characters dying alone, we feel the Jack Nicholson's character in as good as it gets his loneliness we feel that because he is obsessive compulsive. So loneliness is a pretty good emotional connector. Feeling guilty when making a mistake that causes pain to another person. We saw that in Finding Nemo for example, where the father felt sorry, felt responsible for the loss of his son. Right. You also saw that in Spider Man where spider man felt guilty for the murder of his uncle, he felt that he was responsible for letting the burglar leave and actually ended up killing his uncle.
So whenever a character feels guilty that he made a mistake which caused pain another character.
When a character represses pain throughout a story, we feel sorry for them. Perfect example of that is the Rick Lang character in Casablanca, replacing the pain of his last love in Paris. And also in Sleepless in Seattle, where Tom Hanks is repressing the pain of his last wife. And then I saved the most common one, the most powerful one for last and last. And that's life engagement. Every time you put your character in danger, we're instantly connected and we care. Jeopardy is always works. Okay, we'll move on to the second category, which is we like characters who have humanistic traits. So every time you show a character who lets down his defenses in a private moment, and that concludes the villain too. And it was kind of a cliche, but now well, we saw that in the getaway, where the villain those Michael Madsen, player, Michael Madsen, is really nasty villain. And then there's a little moment where he has a little kitten, you know, an actual talk a little bit about that, that's called petting the dog. But anytime, you know, it shows that he cared about an animal. So that's showing his humanity in private moment. And if you show the amount in a private moment, and then that privacy is invaded, and he's humiliated on top of that, that's bonus points right there. So you can combine the two when the villain invades the privacy and humiliates the hero, because that creates extra sympathy for the bill for the hero and you know enmity for the loading for the villain. Anytime you show a character that helps a less fortunate Mother Teresa for example. Anybody who works with animals anybody that has seen short circuit, the Allie Sheedy character where she has the stable of animals, you just can't say no, right? She takes care of the less fortunate. That's the humanistic trait. When you relate to children when you like him when your character likes children and when children like the character this was done very well in Jerry Maguire okay, I was I talked earlier about but patting the dog. This is a very, very, very common technique and you got to do it really well or else it's really cliche and obvious and that's when a character likes an animal and you know Pat's the dog and this works also when the animal lacks the character and because you know animals are supposedly are able to tell innocence right? So if if, you know you could have somebody you think is a villain, but if the dog or a cat like some, then you feel okay is not that bad, because they can sense these things right. Now, interestingly, this doesn't work with cats. Because of the vibe they give, how many times have you seen the villain right? Who has a cat? Right? The hairless cat especially the hairless cat, right, like Blofeld? You know, in James Bonds, right? There's something about cats or dogs that look like rats basically. Okay, anytime a character has a change of heart. You know, where's like, when they're opposed to something for a partner for a certain time, and then they change their mind. When they help a friend, when they come to the aid of a friend, Han Solo at the end of Star Wars is a perfect example. Think about the reaction we had as a crowd when Han Solo who all this time said not want anything to do with you guys at the end comes in and saves Luke from Darth Vader, right. And along the same lines of that, when they risk their life for another human being. That's a humanistic trait. When they actually sacrifice themselves, and actually die for another human being. When a character fights for a just cause anytime a character thinks or cares about something that's important to them that's outside of themselves when they care about something else a cause. And when they die for that, cause that's very powerful. Right? Remember Braveheart at the end, he died for the cause. When a character is ethical or moral. That's a humanistic tray. Especially when they're faced with temptation, and
they refuse that they overcome that. We like them. When they're also dependable and loyal and responsible. That's a humanistic trait. And when they love other people, family and friends, you see that a lot in romantic comedies when you need to set up a character. Right in the beginning, you have to set up two characters in the first act and the romantic comedy of disruptive man and the woman. And so there's a lot of these techniques you see, because it needs to be done real quick, real quick, you know, enough time to really take your time to develop the character. And the first thing you see usually is, you know, they love other people. Okay? And other people love them. Actually, there's gonna be a technique in later on, but you see him right there like you know, the whole lot of friends and family loved them and stuff. And that's a way to, for us to like the character. And basically any nurturing act kind of covers everything else. We've talked about any kind of acting, kindness, caring any act of generosity. You know, when somebody tucks in the tuck somebody in cares when somebody when they heal a wounded especially if it's a child. Any act of altruism, selflessness, compassion, kindness, those are humanistic traits. Okay, so that was the second set of techniques. And we're gonna go to the third one, which is we like characters who have qualities we all admire. First one is power and charisma. Somebody who's a leader think about Patton think about Lawrence of Arabia, Braveheart. Okay, so there, it could be power over other people. Always powerful over other people like in The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Wall Street, could be power over what needs to be done if somebody is powerful enough to always do what needs to be done. We like that. And any character who has the power to express his feelings knows he doesn't care what anybody thinks. Right? They're so secure in themselves that they can say whatever they want, like the character in Beverly Hills Cop. We like it because it just says whatever. on his mind, he doesn't care about the repercussions. Same with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Jack Nicholson's character. Okay, somebody who's courage who has courage, we admire people who are courageous, who have the courage to solve their problems. And that could be physical courage or mental courage. Now, it doesn't have to be courage, like, you know, like a soldier's courage. But a character was courageous enough to take on the journey to solve the problem. Someone who's passionate, we admire that someone who's attractive, someone who's skilled at what he does. When you create a character in a particular field, their job if you can make him that they're the most skilled at what they does that they were in high demand. That's something we admire in characters. And you see that also a lot in romantic comedies, where the character whatever job they're in, they're the best at what they do.
Somebody who's thoughtful and wise. So thoughtfulness and wisdom is a good technique. Somebody who's witty and clever. A lot of the Eddie Murphy roles fit that category, somebody who has a sense of humor, somebody who's playful. physicality and athleticism. Anybody who's physical, anybody who's athletic, could be a dancer could be a sports person. Carrying on despite vulnerabilities, even when not forced, somebody is wounded, and still continues on, we admire that. Now, as long as they're not forcing somebody puts a gun to their head, then okay, they're forced to do it. But if they're not forced, and they still gone, we admire that. So especially like if they're handicapped, for example, and they still know well, how can I still do it? Anyone who's eccentric somebody has a unique way of living. Think of Amelie, for example, when the reasons we liked her so much. Free Spirit. We talked about underdogs earlier. Any underdog who tries hard, it seems everyone loves an underdog thing. It's ingrained in our DNA. We see that a lot in beginner scripts where the character is just passive. They just always react to something. And it's fine in the first act. But in the second act, it's got to be something that's you know, more active with with the character takes action to solve their problem. And I spoke with this little earlier that was surrounded by others who adore him. That's the probably the most common technique. Because it's quick and easy. It actually makes sense in a scene surrounded by others who adore him. And you see that a lot in romantic comedies, because it's the quickest way. In short, I've given you 50 techniques that you have at your disposal to connect instantly with the character. And this is very important for your main character, very important for the reader to connect with a character so that, you know, we follow their journey to the end, and we care about them. Because if we don't care about them, you know, that falls flat. So basically, make sure you can you make us feel sorry for that character. Make sure you give your character humanistic traits and give your characters characteristics that we all admire, and you should be all set. So good luck to you.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:44
I hope you enjoyed your sneak peek of writing for emotional impact. And if you want to get a free copy of it, all you got to do is head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 071. There you will find a link to a free copy of the audiobook on audible.com. Now if you do not have an account with audible.com already, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial. And during that trial, you can download this book for free. If you want to go directly to that all you have to do is go to free film book calm, and that takes you directly to the free trial. Or if you just want to buy the book outright. Just head over to the show notes. I hope this episode has helped you on your screenwriting path guys. I do love Carl. And that's why I wanted this book to be the first book and a soon to be coming series of audio books by amazing authors in the screenwriting space. So thank you again so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.
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