Go into yourself. Go into your story.

May 24th, 2016 by

“There is only one thing to do. Go into yourself. Examine your reason for writing. Discover whether it is rooted in the depths of your heart, and find out whether you would rather die than be forbidden to write. Above all, ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night, have I no choice but to write? Dig deep within for the truest answer, and if this answer is a strong and simple yes, then build your life upon this necessity. Your life henceforth, down to its most ordinary and insignificant moment, must prove and reveal this truth.”

– Maria Rainer Rilke, Paris, February 17, 1903, “Letters to a Young Poet’

Of course I would resonate with this. Go into yourself. Go into the story. So much of the writing life is about immersion. Things other, things personal. Things bigger, things smaller. Things calamitous, things mundane. No matter the proximity, scope, or impact, always there, infused with meaning. We just have to be willing to travel there, give ourselves over to it, and trust that what we learn will inspire our creativity.

As always, we can look at advice such as this in two ways: The Writer’s Life and the Protagonist’s Life.

Per the former, if what we discover by going into our Self is we cannot NOT write, something of our deepest and most authentic nature requires it, this reshapes the subject of success. We can never know if we will achieve financial gain from creative efforts. Even once established with a professional writing career, the only guarantee is that it doesn’t owe us a living. However if we commit to writing because we have come to understand it is essential to who we are, on an existential basis – which is ultimately the most important consideration – we succeed. Every time we write a script, novel, memoir, short story, poem, or song, every day we shape words into scenes, pages, paragraphs, and sentences, we succeed in aligning ourselves with the universe because THIS is what we do, THIS is what we must do.

We can also take Rilke’s words and apply them to the Protagonists of our stories. After all, their journey is most often about engaging in a series of events which compel them to explore what is “rooted in the depths of [their] heart” and in so doing revealing that which has been there all along: Their Bliss, their Rapture, their Core Essence, Authentic Nature, True Self. At their foundation, stories are about the central character’s self-identity and as such two questions require an answer in the playing out of the narrative: Who are you? What will you become? Stripping away the trappings of their ordinary life enables the Protagonist to go into him/her/itself and see clearly what is most essential to their nature. If they embrace that sense of identity and act upon it, they succeed. If not, they fail. Regardless of the outcome, these are stories worth exploring.

Rilke Go Into Yourself

So go into yourself… go into the story… these are related journeys for a writer, both in terms of our own identity and that of our story’s characters.

Take a few moments today to reflect on your reasons for writing. If you cannot NOT write, acknowledge that with a “hearty yes”.

Then go into your story… and see what your characters have to reveal to you in today’s writing session.

47th Annual Willamette Writers Conference

May 20th, 2016 by

A guest post from Waka Brown:

Hi, GITS readers! It’s me, Waka Brown from Scott’s 2013 Quest Initiative. I’ve been having a great time keeping up with you, participating in Zero Draft 30 (um, more like Zero Draft 84 for me, give or take a few), and continuing on my writing journey. My most recent labor of love has been our local writing conference, The 47th Annual Willamette Writers Conference (WWC), which will take place Aug. 12-14, 2016 at the Portland Airport Sheraton. Approximately 700 writers of every form and style are expected to participate.

Many years ago, a friend pointed me toward the WWC after I had been writing (bad) screenplays for a few years. At my first conference, I was shocked at how much I didn’t know—How to pitch, how to follow up, what’s The Black List? Agent v. manager?—you name it, I didn’t know it. I attended for several years, learned more about the craft and the business (which actually led me to Scott and GITS), made contacts, obtained reads, and received enough encouragement to fuel the dream. The best aspect of the conference, though, is the community of writers. It’s your dreams and enthusiasm and your love of story. It’s being in an environment where one can say, “I’m a writer” and no one thinks you’re crazy. Or, if they do, it’s because they’re crazy, too (and proud of it!). In many ways, it’s a physical GITS-like community, but in the land of Voodoo Doughnuts. And Blue Star Donuts. And Pip’s Original Doughnuts. (AFF may have the BBQ, but PDX has got the doughnuts).

For some time, I’ve thought, “It would be really cool to have…” and this past year when my writing group friend was appointed Conference Director, he handed a large part of the Film & TV organizing to me. Let me just say, I’m really proud of the lineup we’ve put together. We have another Quester, Sandy Leviton leading sessions on TV and short films AND taking pitches. We have our Austin connection Tom Willett leading workshops on structure and the Rewrite. We have multi-dimensional story-telling, Act II Blues, the Antagonist’s Journey, pitching workshops, the business of Hollywood, and much, much more. We have managers such as Lee Stobby (who represents the writer with the #1 script on the 2015 Black List) and Kailey Marsh (founder of The Bloodlist) hearing pitches, as well as a number of other great reps and executives actively seeking out new voices.

And that’s just the Film & TV side. There’s a whole literary section of the conference covering fiction/non-fiction/sci-fi/fantasy/essays/short stories/magazines/poetry/young readers/graphic novels/self-publishing/agent/editor/publisher offerings.

If any of this interests you, please check out our conference site. Registration and pitch sales are now open and if you’re a GITS reader, we’re offering a $25 discount (code: GITSDiscount).

Finally, many thanks to Scott for letting me hijack his blog to promote the conference. If you have any questions, you can find me at @wakatb on Twitter. Hope to see you there!

For all you writers up in the Pacific Northwest, this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the craft and do some networking. Be sure to take advantage of the special Go Into The Story discount!

Twitter: @wilwrite.

“So I enter an airport bar…”

May 19th, 2016 by

I was flying home from a business trip yesterday when this happened [actual text message I sent to my family, slightly edited to correct some typos]:

So I am at O’Hare and I figure I will grab a quick drink before my flight. Find a seat at a crowded bar (Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Terminal 3, K2). End up sitting next to Jackie whose iPhone is at 3% power. I offer to let him plug in to my laptop to charge up. We talk. Nice young man. Takes a sip from his glass of beer. Tells me he is going to fly non-stop 18 hours to Bejing, then Mongolia where he is from. I keep checking to make sure his phone is powering up, which it is.

Then as appreciation to my kindness and that of Jeremy, the dude next to me from Portland, who offers to let Jackie use his portable battery power unit to charge his phone, Jackie buys 3 shots of Grey Goose vodka.

Jeremy says no can do, but Jackie insists with me. Not wanting to be impolite, I take a sip. He downs his in one slug.

I get to talking with Jeremy, then a few minutes Jackie taps me on the shoulder and he is suddenly drunk. Don’t know if he took an Ambien or what, but he is a mess. And he is clinking the 3rd shot glass of vodka, the one Jeremy turned down, against my just-sipped glass: Let’s toast.

I say, “No, not a good idea.” But he slams back his shot.

“Jackie, no more for you, okay.”

I catch the eye of the bartender Pedro. He scoops away Jackie’s beer. Replaces with a glass of water.

“Here, drink some water, Jackie.”

I hold the glass for him. He takes a sip. Thumbs his phone. Hands it to me. On the screen, I’m staring at the face of Jackie’s friend. From Mongolia.

“What’s wrong with Jackie?”
“He’s had too much to drink.”
“He must come home. Family needs him. He must get on plane.”
“Okay, okay, I understand.”

Jackie is lolling from side to side.

“Jackie, when is your flight.”
“Yes, I know you’re flying to Bejing. When does the plane take off?”

He fumbles through his pants pockets. Drops the phone. I pick it up. Cash spills onto the floor. I retrieve it.

The bartender Pedro enlists the help of an airline dude: “Where’s his boarding pass?”

I dig through Jackie’s pants pockets because he is unable to function. More cash. Baggage claim check. Passport.

Finally his boarding pass.

Oops. This is for his flight from an earlier flight.

Phone rings. It’s Jackie’s friend. Hands me the phone.

“How’s he doing?”
“We’re working on it.”
“Must get home, must get on flight…”

Now several people including myself and Jeremy from Portland have marshaled forces: We are single-minded to help Jackie, who we have known for all of 20 minutes.

Finally I find his boarding pass. Jackie wobbling. Shit! His flight leaves in 20 minutes!

I jam his cash, passport, phone, charger cable (his phone now at 38% power) into his pocket as Jackie’s friend keeps calling (“We’ll get him there, we’ll get him there,” I keep saying).

By now, there are a half-dozen people at work to get this virtual stranger onto his plane. The airline representative is a freaking hero, steers a wobbling Jackie onto an electric cart to head off to another terminal (Jackie is in the wrong place).

“Thank you, thank you, good friend, good friend,” Jackie slurs, patting people on the back as they pull away.

And he is gone.

Jeremy and I shake our heads: What the hell just happened? Jeremy has to leave for his flight. We shake hands. He gives me his card. If I ever become a big corporation and need IT help, I know who to call.

While I resume sitting at the bar, several people come up to shake my hand. “That was wonderful what you did,” a guy says. He was seated at a table right next to the whole thing. “Nobody does that for people anymore.”

I say, “We’re all human beings. What else could we do?”

He embraces me.

“Yeah, what else.”

Then the whole scene is over, as if it never happened. A guy slides into the seat Jackie occupied.

He lives in Philadelphia. He and his partner want to move to Palm Springs. “It’s a big gay community there,” he tells me.

“You don’t say.”

I have kept thinking about Jackie last night and today. I hope he made it home on time. My interaction with him reminded me of two basic facts of life: First, empathy is one of the most important capabilities we have as human beings. Second, as writers, stories exist everywhere.

In both respects, we do well to keep our eyes and ears open.

Analysis: The Psychological Connection of Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

May 19th, 2016 by

In my current Write a Worthy Nemesis class, we have been exploring Carl Jung’s theory of the shadow. Here is an extended excerpt from Lecture 2: Shadow vs. Light:

Let me present to you what may be a startling concept, one that suggests a Nemesis – who they are, how they are, what they are – is intimately connected to the Protagonist’s psyche state. Indeed one way of looking at the Nemesis is as a physicalization of the Protagonist’s shadow, a projection come to life.

Parsing that language, the psyche represents the totality of the human persona, conscious and unconscious states, thoughts and feelings. Projection occurs when an individual ascribes aspects of their psyche onto someone else. Finally the shadow is one key facet of the psyche, an idea promulgated by the noted analytical psychologist Carl Jung:

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected. — “Psychology and Religion” (1938).

The shadow is all aspects of an individual’s psyche that exist outside the light of consciousness. While there can be positive energy associated with it, more often than not the shadow expresses itself as a negative dynamic, deriving from the least desirable facets of a person’s psyche:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. — “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912).

Positively demonic dynamism… emerges a raging monster... bloody rampages. If we project these attributes into the realm of story, doesn’t it sound like a Nemesis at work? Furthermore the presence of a character’s shadow suggests a direction for the narrative:

The hero’s main feat is to overcome the monster of darkness: it is the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious. The coming of consciousness was probably the most tremendous experience of primeval times, for with it a world came into being whose existence no one had suspected before. “And God said, ‘Let there be light”‘ is the projection of that immemorial experience of the separation of consciousness from the unconscious. — “The Psychology of the Child Archetype” (1940).

In a story’s Internal World, the psychological and emotional realm, the Hero’s Journey is about engaging the shadow, bringing it into the light of consciousness, then subduing it or diffusing its negative power by acknowledging and understanding it.

In a story’s External World, the realm of action and events, this dynamic almost always plays itself out as a confrontation between Protagonist and Nemesis, the latter a physicalization of the Protagonist’s darkest, most repressed desires and feelings.

This means that to the degree the Nemesis reflects key attributes of the Protagonist’s shadow, a story will have a natural sense of unity and an organic synergy between these two critical characters: Shadow vs. Light.

With that as a frame, a question arose in my Nemesis class: In Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, is Kylo Ren related in some way to the Rey’s shadow as the protagonist?

For a deeper exploration of this question — SPOILER ALERT!!! — click on More and read my analysis of the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren… then switch Protagonists and look at the story from Kylo Ren’s perspective and his connection to Rey.

Chuck Wendig: Tweetstorm About Writing Dialogue

May 14th, 2016 by

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, game designer, and of late has added comic book writer to his burgeoning resume. He is also on Twitter (@ChuckWendig) and his feed is both hugely entertaining and informative. To wit, the other day, he went on what he calls a “tweetstorm” about writing dialogue, then storified it on his blog (also recommended) Terrible Minds. It’s a great read. Here are few tweety excerpts:


Good stuff! For the rest of Chuck’s tweetstorm, go here.

Character Type: Prostitute

May 12th, 2016 by

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or taken courses with me through Screenwriting Master Class know how fascinated I am with character archetypes, specifically how there are five — Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster — which recur in movies over and over and over.

Some might see archetypes as a sort of reductionist approach to writing when in my experience, it is precisely the opposite.

By working with these five Primary Character Archetypes, we can identify the core narrative function of every key character, then use that knowledge as a guide as we build them out in a limitless number of ways.

One approach is to use an extensive array of Character Types available to us. So this week, I am running a series in which we will explore several Character Types and consider how writers can use them to create unique, compelling figures in our stories.

Today: Prostitute.

There have been dramas with prostitutes such as Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy and Leaving Las Vegas:

There have been comedies featuring prostitutes like Irma La Douce, Night Shift and Mighty Aphrodite:

There have been thrillers like Klute, Angel and American Gigolo:

What is the appeal of these characters in movies? Obviously there is the allure of sex. But beyond that, there is an implied question for any movie viewer about a primary character who is a Prostitute and that is this: Could I do that? Can I imagine myself in a situation like that? A well-crafted Prostitute character can move the moviegoer experience beyond voyeurism to vicarious imagination.

One of the most popular iterations of this type is the proverbial Hooker With a Heart of Gold such as Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind and Vivan Ward in Pretty Woman:

But there is also prostitution in a metaphorical sense. In The Apartment, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is having an affair with her boss Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray):

At one point, Sheldrake tosses a hundred dollar bill to Fran in order for her to go buy herself a Christmas present and she starts taking off her clothes saying, “I just thought as long as it was paid for.” At that moment, the stark truth hits her: She has been prostituting herself. Notably this is what leads to her suicide attempt.

One of the many reasons The Apartment is such a superlative movie is that the theme of prostitution comes into play with another character: The Protagonist C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) who by allowing his co-workers, then Sheldrake to use Baxter’s apartment for their trysts has sold his soul in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder.

Which brings us back to the question that invites a script reader to participate more fully in the story: How far would I go to survive or to obtain wealth? Would I be willing to prostitute myself to achieve my goals?

The Prostitute type almost inevitably raises questions of this type in the subtext of their presence in a story.

What brainstorming can you do with a Prostitute character type?

A Protagonist as a Prostitute would be interesting. They could get caught up in a scandal with The Powers That Be, putting him/her in danger. What about a comedy with a Prostitute forced to become a nanny (Mary Poppins: Hooker Nanny).

It’s pretty easy to imagine a Prostitute as an Attractor character, but what about Mentor? Certainly life on the streets and meeting all sorts of clientele would lead to a depth of understanding beyond that of a ‘normal’ person.

Prostitute as Trickster? That’s a good fit, too, as they are natural born survivors, and can turn from ally to enemy in a flash.

And then prostitution as a metaphor: Ask your characters, “How much of their soul have they sold to achieve their end?”

What other Prostitute character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think they make for such compelling figures?

Tomorrow: Another character type.

[Originally posted February 6, 2014]

Character Type: Clown

May 11th, 2016 by

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or taken courses with me through Screenwriting Master Class know how fascinated I am with character archetypes, specifically how there are five — Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster — which recur in movies over and over and over.

Some might see archetypes as a sort of reductionist approach to writing when in my experience, it is precisely the opposite.

By working with these five Primary Character Archetypes, we can identify the core narrative function of every key character, then use that knowledge as a guide as we build them out in a limitless number of ways.

One approach is to use an extensive array of Character Types available to us. So this month, I am running a series in which we will explore 20 Character Types, and consider how writers can use them to create unique, compelling figures in our stories.

Today: Clown.

Some of the earliest and most successful actors in cinema history were clowns including The Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin:

It’s interesting to note how broad, physical humor, often called slapstick, is a feature of clown character types. One of the greatest of all in movies is Harpo Marx from the Marx Brothers:

Of course, they are often known by their verbal wit such as Danny Kaye’s character in the 1955 movie The Court Jester:

Clowns tend to be Trickster figures and often defy convention or authority. As such, they upset the normal state of affairs, creating confusion, even chaos. But that can be precisely what must happen to reveal some underlying truth that needs to emerge into the light of day. Consider Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. He is a Clown in the form of an Angel who upends the ordinary life of George Bailey (James Stewart), compelling into an extraordinary experience — one in which George has never been born.

We may think of Clowns as happy figures, but they can don their comic masks to shroud deeper, darker psychological dynamics. A great example is Steven Gold (Tom Hanks) in the 1988 movie Punchline, a comedian tormented by inner demons.

Then there are Clowns whose stories are enmeshed in tragedy like Guido (Roberto Benigni) who concocts an elaborate fantasy — the Holocaust is a game and the grand prize for winning is a tank — to protect the imagination of his son. Here is a scene depicting Guido’s last moments:

There is a tradition in the horror genre of scary clowns such as It, Clownhouse and Killer Clowns from Outer Space, a mainstream version of which is the Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight:

Clowns can mock and betray, but also delight and inspire. Since movies are fundamentally a visual medium, Clowns can cut quite memorable figures due to their sheer physicality and Id-driven impuses.

What brainstorming can you do with a Clown character type?

Is your story in need of some levity and chaos? Consider your cast of characters. Might one of them have a bent toward a humorous psyche, willing to flaunt conventions as well as be the object of ridicule?

While a Protagonist can be a Clown type, some of the best sidekick characters fall into this category, creating a comic spark to change the mood, put things into perspective, or just to give a jolt to a scene.

What other Clown character types can you think of in movies? Why do you think they make for such interesting figures?

Tomorrow: Another character type.

[Originally posted February 10, 2014]

“The Most Valuable Thing I Learned at Pixar: How to Fail”

May 10th, 2016 by

Time once again to dip into my obsession with Pixar Animation Studios. Several years ago, I interviewed Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at Pixar. The conversation offers a terrific insight into the story-crafting process at arguably the most successful movie studio in existence today: 16 out of 17 movies which debuted at #1 in box office revenues. Their movies have garnered 26 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, and 3 Grammy Awards, and 7 of their movies are in the IMDb Top 250 Movies as voted by movie fans.

If I had to guess, I figure over the years I’ve written perhaps 50-60 posts on Pixar. So when I noticed someone had posted a comment in my interview post with Mary Coleman… and the individual in question said he had worked at Pixar for 8 years… and he had written a blog post of his own about one key to the Pixar story process, I reached out to the writer — Mike Sundy — to see if I could feature some excerpts from his post and he agreed.

The piece is titled “The Most Valuable Thing I Learned at Pixar: How to Fail”. The whole post is worth reading, but here is a taste:

At Pixar, we constantly attempted to identify failure, correct weak spots, and not get too complacent.  This started from day one.  On my orientation several years ago, they walked me (an IT guy) and the other employees starting that day (barista, software engineer, etc.) into the beautiful Main Theater and sat us in row six, where the directors sit.  They told us “you’re all filmmakers now.”  And they meant it.  We, along with the other thousand or so folks who work there, were charged with identifying failures in the films (and in the company) and then “plussing” them.  Plussing = making it a little bit better.  The entire company had a voice and we were encouraged to e-mail our notes directly to the producer.  Pixar doesn’t make films better than anyone else.  They just make them over and over until they get them right.  We averaged roughly 8-9 low-res visual drafts of the films (in storyboard form called “story reels”) over the course of the several years it takes to make each film.  And the early versions of most of the films are frankly terrible.  This includes Woody being a jerk (see video below) in the early reels of Toy Story.  The films improve dramatically over those 8-9 rounds of screenings.  By the time we got to the final iteration after years of effort, it was usually working well.

The failure starts from the very birth of the film.  The simplified version of how a film starts is that a director or story artist comes up with three personal ideas and pitches them to John Lasseter.  John picks one of the three and tells them to develop that.  Right off the bat, there are two failed ideas.  After that, there are hundreds of “failures” as ideas about the story are pitched and discarded.  Then the story artists draw tens of thousands of temporary boards for the reels – that’s tens of thousands of “failures.”  The Braintrust (a group of peer directors and writers) weighs in with their opinions and blows up the reels again.  The beleaguered director and his/her team are constantly being confronted with the fact that the film’s not good enough yet.  They collate the useful feedback, make some decisions, and then make it better.  And that’s just the story side of it.  There are daily/weekly reviews of animation and other production elements where small teams analyze, find weak spots, and plus them.  It’s a grind toward greatness.

Sometimes a film will even make it to production and then get canned.  That’s an expensive failure.  But it’s more important than putting out a subpar film.

In a sense, Pixar displays and celebrates their failures.  Their art galleries are full of concept art, character design, environment design, and gags that didn’t directly make it into the movie.  But there’s a beauty in the process of discarding, and out of those lovely “failures” the final film emerges.

When Mike says Pixar “celebrates their failures,” consider this: What other movie studio would make public the famous Black Friday test clip of the first bad iteration of Toy Story in which Woody comes across as a real jerk:

Mike, who is a writer himself, goes on to talk about how he figures failure into his own creative process. As I say, the entire post is well worth reading which you can do here.

There are a lot of factors which can derail creative effort let alone productivity and fear of failure is one of the most common and powerful dynamics. So when a company like Pixar embraces failure, we should take a lesson from that.

We are going to fail. What matters is what we do with our failures.

What do you think? How do you deal with writing failures? Do you find fear of failure to stymie your creative output? And you Pixar fans, what do you think about their “celebration” of failure? I invite you to hit Reply and join me in comments to continue the discussion.

Blog: http://mikesundy.blogspot.com
Twitter: @mike_sundy
Books: http://legbug.com

Character Type: Warrior

May 10th, 2016 by

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or taken courses with me through Screenwriting Master Class know how fascinated I am with character archetypes, specifically how there are five — Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster — which recur in movies over and over and over.

Some might see archetypes as a sort of reductionist approach to writing when in my experience, it is precisely the opposite.

By working with these five Primary Character Archetypes, we can identify the core narrative function of every key character, then use that knowledge as a guide as we build them out in a limitless number of ways.

One approach is to use an extensive array of Character Types available to us. So this week, I am running a series in which we will explore some Character Types, and consider how writers can use them to create unique, compelling figures in our stories.

Today: Warrior.

Naturally the Warrior character type is about fighting, their stock-in-trade. But for whom do they fight? How? And most important… why? The answer to these questions define the very nature of the Warrior… or perhaps more precisely, their nature provides the answers to the questions.

There is the lone Warrior who is called upon to fight on behalf of victims such as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Road House (1989), and Léon: The Professional (1994).

There is the retired Warrior who is forced by circumstances to take on one last job as with Shane (1953), Unforgiven (1992), and Gran Torino (2008).

There is the Warrior who emerges from surprising roots over time unleashing their power which lies latent within as in movies like Hero (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), and The Matrix (1999).

There is the Warrior hell-bent on revenge like Death Wish (1974), Gladiator (2000), and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).

Then there are the group of Warriors like The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Avengers (2012), and Seven Samurai (1954).

Whereas an Advocate will tend to use their logic and intellect to defeat their foes, Warriors rely on their physical strength. Not to say they are unintelligent. Often they have to rely on their wits and whatever wisdom they learn along the way of their journey to defeat a Nemesis contingent that makes the Warrior a decided underdog.

But again, the keys to Warrior characters is to determine who they fight… how they fight… and why they fight.

What brainstorming can you do with a Warrior?

The Warrior character type is a natural fit for the role of Protagonist, but think about Mentor figures who have been trained in the way of fighting like Miyagi in The Karate Kid. Need a reference point for an Attractor with mad Warrior skills? How about Trinity from The Matrix. And a Trickster? There is none other than Han Solo in Star Wars.

Of course, Warriors make excellent Nemeses as well. Whereas Warriors associated with the Protagonist and his/her cause are generally going to be fighting for something other than themselves, a Nemesis Warrior ultimately represents a distortion ethics and humanist values, all in pursuit achieving their goal… and victory.

What other notable Warrior character types in movies can you suggest?

Tomorrow: Another Character type.

[Originally posted February 25, 2014]

Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 9th, 2016 by

If the Protagonist is most often your story’s most important character, the Nemesis is not far behind. Indeed some of the greatest characters in film history have been Nemeses including Darth Vader (Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope), the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz), Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and the shark (Jaws).

If conflict is the stuff of great drama, there is perhaps no conflict more compelling than that of a Protagonist versus a Nemesis. But what makes for a worthy Nemesis? How to develop them?

Hans Gruber, Die Hard

Following up on my recent Create a Compelling Protagonist course, I’m offering Write a Worthy Nemesis which begins Monday, May 16. It is a 1-week screenwriting course that takes a unique approach to developing this pivotal character in that the starting point is the Protagonist. Here are the 7 lecture titles:

Lecture 1: Nemesis v. Antagonist

Lecture 2: Shadow v. Light

Lecture 3: Fear v. Need

Lecture 4: Disunity v. Unity

Lecture 5: Overlord v. Underdog

Lecture 6: Intelligence v. Wisdom

Lecture 7: Empathy v. Sympathy

Notice the clever theme of v. for versus? There’s a reason for that, one you will discover when you take the class. In addition to the seven lectures that I am writing, there is 24/7 forum feedback, six insider tips, a teleconference, and an opportunity to workshop one of your story’s Nemesis characters.

Warden Norton, The Shawshank Redemption

The most recent Create a Compelling Protagonist session has been phenomenal. In fact, I have extended the class for at least another week because of all the incredible conversations we’ve had along with great workshopping of participants’ Protagonists. I fully expect the my Nemesis class will just as stimulating.

To download Lecture 1: Nemesis v. Antagonist and get some idea of what we’ll be studying and working with, click here.

So sign up today right here and join me for a week’s journey into the dark side of the human soul, the place where great Nemeses figures dwell, waiting for you to find them. Start date: Monday, May 16.