With Valentine’s Day around the corner I’ve been thinking about love and the things it makes us do. I know that reading thousands of scripts, many of them good, only a few have driven me to action. If I love your script, the chances are I’m going to do whatever I can to help you get it made. So how do you make us love your script?
Love can have a powerful affect on us, our work and on those around us. To love someone or something is to feel a strong, positive emotional reaction, one that is unbidden and can be overwhelming. Storytelling, whatever genre your script, is about eliciting a strong emotional response from your audience and it doesn’t come much stronger than love.
For a script to become a film or TV show a LOT of people need to be onboard. Not just a bit interested, I mean passionate about your script. And those people (readers, producers, development execs) read a lot of scripts; hundreds, probably thousands of them. So how do you get jaded gatekeepers and producers to put their necks on the line for you and start trying to get your script made? Simple: you make us fall in love with your script.
Love is powerful. The unconditional love for your children, the passionate love for you partner, the affectionate love for friends and family – these are all types of love for which we would make huge sacrifices and that drive us to extraordinary actions. But we can also love stories because they too are, at their heart, about people. We can wax lyrical for hours about a new film that we loved or a book that we adored. If I read two scripts; one of which is OK, good even, and the other I loved, I’m going to go that extra mile for the one that I loved.
“Love is free but attaches us with bonds stronger than anything else.” – Nun, Catherine Wybourne
So what makes us fall in love with a script?
Your love for your characters: Trust me, it shows on the page if you don’t. Whoever they are, however flawed they are (very, I hope!), you’ve got to love them, all of them. To write them well you have to inhabit them, become them and hopefully through that process of walking in their shoes and experiencing what it is to be them, you’ll fall in love with them. Like your kids, you’ve probably got a favourite (don’t tell mine I said that!) and I bet I can tell from reading the script which one it is, but if you’ve done your job well I might have a different favourite. If you love your characters, you can be sure I will too.
Using love to drive your stories: Novelist Jojo Moyes said “Love is the driver for all great stories; romantic love, the love of parent for child, for family, for country.” and she’s right. We want stories driven by strong emotional forces. If the emotions experienced by your characters aren’t big enough, neither will your audience reaction be. We need the stakes to be high, we need to see characters put through the ringer, driven forward by big, powerful emotions. And love’s about the biggest motivator there is.
Screenwriting requires passion and persistence. You’ve got to love your characters and your story to have even half a chance of other people loving it. But if they do, if you can make them love your script, they’re going to tell their friends about it and before you know it, the whole industry is talking about your script and you, the talented, passionate writer who lovingly created it.
- More articles by Hayley McKenzie
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- Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Character Evolution – Finding Your Character’s Wound