Sunday, July 15, 2007

Screenwriter Secrets of Effective Storytelling!
Part II: The People

#2: Introducing the Arch Nemesis

Every story has a villain. Think of the most popular ones from the movies: Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, HAL, dinosaurs. They drive the story's main activity, and can set off other conflicts among the heroes. They're also really fun to write, much more so than the boring old protagonist.

That's because the main character is usually a reflection of the writer, while the villains steal all the good lines. "No, Luke. I am your father." "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti." And the granddaddy (or grandmother) of them all: "I'll get you my pretty and your little dog too!"

In telling your story, or an organization's, a customer's or a constituent's, it might be tough to flesh out the villain, however.

You might not want to name names directly. It might not be a person. It could be a disease, a force of nature, an immoral activity, or a frame of mind. Depression, tsunamis, badly-distributed resources, homophobia. If you were writing a screenplay, you'd give each of these its own personality. In telling your story, you might not have the space or time.

But you need to know exactly who and/or what your villain is. Take the time to dig down, flesh out, even describe for yourself what can vanquish its evil ways. Like a movie that tricks you into thinking you know who the villain is, in the story you're writing, you might think you know who your villain is (politicians are always the knee-jerk, fall back villains in everyone's minds), but you don't want to destroy relationships and burn bridges. And you don't want people getting the wrong idea.

You may end up with a story that doesn't specifically mention your villain, specially if your audience already knows and you're in full agreement. But knowing who or what your villain is gives you a better foundation on which to build your story. And who knows, you may even find yourself writing a screenplay based on the problems he, she or it can cause.

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