Crying all the way to the bank

Short and sweet, via John August: "The protagonist is the character that suffers the most."

I'm going to add my own footnote: emotional/existential suffering counts more than physical. A lot more – though it is nice to give your hero a good Indiana Jones-style beat down every now and then.

commented before that many otherwise talented writers seem unable to apply this to semi-autobiographical protagonists. In the latest flurry of script reading, I've noticed a corollary. Many otherwise talented writers seem unable to apply this to characters written for stars.

I recently read a buddy cop script in which one of the two leads was written for a particular attachment. The star role was clearly intended as a weightier, showier, more memorable part than the second lead – Riggs, not Murtaugh. Unfortunately, unlike
Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black, who dumped piles of crap on Riggs, this writer tiptoed daintily around his star. The character got all the great lines and stood up bravely for all the right things, but nothing ever got to him. The villain threatened the star with a gun, but never with deep, heartfelt, I-just-can't-go-on-style loss. The guy got beat up a few times, but he never really suffered.

Go ahead and hurt your stars. Give Mr. or Ms. Above The Title something to love, then take it away. Be merciless. They won't hold it against you. Heck, actors love that stuff anyway.

And if you need extra incentive, remember how much they're going to earn from all that suffering you endured writing the thing.

No comments: