Capturing the Emotional Journey
What a night and what a championship! The Cleveland Cavaliers come back from an unprecedented 3-1 deficit to clinch the NBA title and bring a championship back to Cleveland after a 52-year drought. The ultimate under-dog story, right? An emotional roller-coaster for the masses.
Isn't that exactly what we hope to achieve as writers?
Our protagonist must always be reaching for that elusive goal, one that will transform him or her from the person they think they are, to the person they need to be. This process is fraught with obstacles, each more challenging than the next, that engages the audience. This emotional "buy-in" keeps the audience locked into the journey, they cheer at successes, cry at defeats with their own hopes and fears emulating your character's.
We wanted Neo to be the One and defeat the machines in THE MATRIX... We agonized with Vinny as he struggled to adapt to Southern Culture and win his cousin's case in MY COUSIN VINNY... we cried when Murphy lost his battle against Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.
I've heard it many times when asking producers, "So, what are you looking for in a script?" The common answer boils down to this: "A story that reaches me emotionally." Essentially, story and plot must take the characters along a path, so that they are relatable and audiences empathize with their plight. This is the essence we as writers need to focus on, BEFORE one word is written.
So, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers, life gives us a lesson in what it means to be a great story teller... give your characters a near impossible goal, throw as many challenges in their path as possible, make it doubtful that the goal can achieved and make certain a the end, regardless of the outcome, your character has become the person they've always needed to be.
Then, fellow screenwriters... you have a WINNER!