by Peggy Bechko
Seriously writers… storytelling isn’t a bed of roses for you, the writer, or for your protagonist – you know, the hero or heroine of the thing.
Oh, wait, you’re telling me that actually it IS a bed of roses? That everything is going honkey-dory? Nice? Cool?
So you’re telling me your manuscript or movie script is b.o.r.i.n.g.
Don’t sit there and squirm and try to deny it. If you don’t know it already (and you should, actually) you don’t grab a reader, whether script reader or manuscript editor, by the eyeballs by painting a bucolic picture of joy and happiness. I mean, really, who wants to read about, or spend two hours in a theater watching a ‘nice’ guy or girl trying to decide on which outfit to wear to prom?
But wait, we’re all guilty of it, we like a character we’ve created. And, well (stub toe in dirt) it is your story after all, right?
Right! Of course you won’t be able to sell it until an alien kidnaps the prom queen or her boyfriend literally gets thrown under a bus by a rival or… well, you get it I hope.
Oh, and the prom queen? She needs to be a closet bitch who schemes to destroy her boyfriend’s future because she’s actually a psychopath and thinks it would be funny. And her boyfriend? Maybe he has a shaved head, multiple heavyweight earrings and a huge tattoo across his chest and is a member of a gang, but he’s unsure of his place with them.
Make your characters interesting and even if they’re vile jerks, they won’t be boring and people will want to follow them to find out what comes next. They’ll hang on every word, locked in with a desire to know what comes next.
But still you resist? Don’t want to ‘hurt’ your characters? Why would that be? Well, for most writers, a little bit of him or herself is in those characters, every one. Even the villains. So, poking at them is, in effect, poking at ourselves. BUT, the good news we can use our old wounds to create mesmerizing characters. And drawing from that well of painful experiences you, as the writer, make people feel. And when you make them feel you have them hooked.
So let’s circle back to the prom queen psychopath. Why is she where she is? What propelled her to this? Destruction for destruction’s sake. Can she be saved? Is she actually the villain? What do you need to pull up from your depths to make her a truly stunning character? Be brave.
Create situations people don’t expect. I watched the movie Life a while back. It was interesting until that tiny (spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it) space thing reared back and attacked. Then it was gripping. Where was this going? What issues were the crew members of the space station grappling with to bring their experience to bear on corralling this thing?
Get inside your characters.
Get inside yourself.
Be uncomfortable while using your own personal demons to pump extraordinary life into those characters. Do it. Push your characters. Throw them under a bus. The bar for writing is rising all the time. Gather your courage and reach higher.
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.