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Home » Archives » November 2007 » It's Never Requited
[Previous entry: "...and have to trade places with a pencil prince"] [Next entry: "Rimshot Removal"]

11/22/2007: It's Never Requited

Happy Thanksgiving! Are you full of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes? I know I am. Mmmm. So sleepy. And there's still pumpkin pie that needs to be eaten! (By the way, the pie is entirely homemade. By this I mean that I mixed the spices and eggs into the canned pumpkin myself instead of buying the pre-mixed kind. So superior.)

So, I was sitting here, slipping quietly into a food coma, and I started randomly thinking about the nature of competitions. Every entrant in the Miss America competition wants to win, right? But do you root for all of them? Do you root for any of them? It's not enough for someone to want something, or even deserve something. To really make us pull for someone, it helps a lot if they've overcome something. If a contestant can weave a compelling tale of childhood tragedy or mild disability, we root for them. We want them to be compensated.

This can tell us writers a lot about how to create characters that audiences root for -- a crucial ingredient in populating your spec pilot. Just making a "good" person or a "deserving" person isn't enough. A person with impeccable morals who has never had them tested isn't that compelling. I've written here before about how Dr. House and Starbuck are both wonderful characters despite not being "likable" in the traditional sense. We understand them, and the tragedies that have led them to be the wonderful prickly souls that they are, and we want them to accomplish their goals as a result.

So give the main character in your spec script something that they want. Absolutely. But also give them a nice juicy obstacle to getting it. The audience will love them.

And allow me to particularly recommend the application of a special case of this -- unrequited love, which instantly wins over any reader/viewer with its power. Got a character who's a hard sell? Having a rough time in the swimsuit competition? Try a little fruitless yearning. Great stuff.

Lunch/Dinner: You know how it goes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy and an experimental liaison with a broccoli salad that no one liked.


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