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?
Following up on my recent Create a Compelling Protagonist course, I’m offering Create a Worthy Nemesis. 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:
Monday, May 20 — Lecture 1: Nemesis v. Antagonist
Tuesday, May 21 — Lecture 2: Shadow v. Light
Wednesday, May 22 — Lecture 3: Fear v. Need
Thursday, May 23 — Lecture 4: Disunity v. Unity
Friday, May 24 — Lecture 5: Overlord v. Underdog
Saturday, May 25 — Lecture 6: Intelligence v. Wisdom
Sunday, May 26 — 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.
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.
Some thoughts from Tom Benedek (@TomBenedek) about an upcoming Screenwriting Master Class workshop:
I decided I wanted to write a script that I could shoot myself DIY – a very low budget piece. An idea clicked in my head. Basically, one location. Except for the sequence in India which may have to go, of course. For a week, I wrote scene ideas, character notes, images. It was great. A blast of caffeine fueled creativity. A legend in my mind, at least. I have 20 pages of stuff. Three different protagonists. Four plot structures – each one-third written. Now comes the really interesting part – weaving all this into something whole and complete — that is of a piece.
I realized the best thing to do was to use Scott’s Prep: From Concept to Outline course to get a script outline done. I’m running a six-week Prep class on Monday at Screenwritingmasterclass.com. Each week there are lectures and exercises (Yes, I reread Scott’s lectures again and again.) If I follow along with the class, I should have a decent beat sheet/script outline in June.
The Prep Class weaves plot and character, internal struggles, external conflicts through an amazingly simple system. There’s no formula. It is just a set of important questions we always ought to ask ourselves before we go to script. I always find this class a gratifying experience. I am hoping to get my own positive results from this next round as well.
Why not join Tom as he preps his original story? You will not only pull together the current story you’re working on, but also learn an approach you can adapt and use for all of your future projects.
The next session starts Monday, April 29. For more information, to here.
Let’s face it: Rewriting is a bitch. Or a bastard. Pick your gender specific invective. Doesn’t matter. The process is a pain no matter how you shake your fist and swear at it.
One big issue I’ve found with writers caught up in the maelstrom of rewriting is that there is no one surefire path to success. This stands to reason. Stories are organic and so a certain amount of rewriting them involves wallowing in the wilderness. That’s just the nature of things.
However I have an approach which I honestly believe can move your process forward in a big way. It’s one I use in the Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshop, a 10-week class that guides you through a rewrite.
In this workshop, you will not only drill down into your story and understand it more clearly, if you do the work, you will get from FADE IN to FADE OUT on your next draft, and move you script toward the point you can bring it to market.
Here is an overview of the approach employed in Pages II: Rewriting Your Script:
* The first four weeks, it’s about assessing your current draft, identifying problems as well as content that works, brainstorming solutions, then working up a revision outline.
* The next four weeks, it’s knocking out your draft in quarters: Week 5 – Act One. Week 6 – The first half of Act Two. Week 7 – The second half of Act Two. Week 8 – Act Three.
* The last two weeks: Polish and Edit.
There are 10 lectures that provide prompts and tips to steer you through the rewrite, weekly due dates to compel you to do the work, and a workshop environment in which you receive constructive critiques from your fellow writers along with detailed feedback from myself, a combination of written feedback and teleconferences.
What’s more, you learn tools you can use to incorporate into your rewrite process from here on out, making your experience less bitchy / bastardy.
Here is a testimonial from a Aarthi Jayaraman, a writer who has gone through the Pages II experience:
Working with Scott at Screenwriting Master Class is an invaluable experience for both novice writers struggling to learn the ropes and advanced writers in need of direction. Aside from Scott’s lectures, tips and exercises being both practical and thought-provoking, the online workshop experience is a must for all screenwriters breaking into the business to learn from the feedback of Scott, an established storytelling master as well as others. Ever since taking his classes, my own ability and confidence as a screenwriter have blossomed and brought my writing goals and ambitions closer than ever. Also, having read almost every screenwriting book out there, none can hold a penny to Scott’s approach of story driven by character, which can not only have you confident in your writing abilities, but can also solve the worst case of writers block (as it did for me). I feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity with Scott.
I do not subscribe to the belief there is one approach to writing… or rewriting. Every writer is different. Every story is different. But I do know this: The process we use in Pages II has helped many, many writers solve major story issues, discover important story keys, and enable them to take their script to the next level.
If you have a script that is a complete draft, but you know needs work…
Or a partially completed draft where you got stuck and couldn’t find your way out…
Or a story you’ve rewritten multiple times, yet feel it just doesn’t work…
I encourage you to consider joining me in my upcoming Rewriting Your Script workshop.
It just occurred to me to frame this post with the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil,” but maybe there’s a nifty connection: Because the reality of introducing multiple characters in a script can give a writer a… ahem… devil of a time!
[And Myers sinks the shot from half-court!]
5, 10, 15, 20, 25. No, you have not mistakenly signed up for an online remedial math class. Rather these represent the potential number of characters in a feature-length screenplay. Some stories may have as few as five, even less. More frequently scripts have 10, 15, 20, 25 or more characters.
Consider you are writing a script that has 25 characters. You think about each of their backstories, as you should. You ponder their personalities and the way they talk, also as you should. You consider their respective narrative functions, how they look, how they interact, how they oppose or help each other, how they live, love or die. All of that is good and necessary character development.
But here is something many writers do not think about enough or at all: If at the end of the day someone is going to read your script, how are they going to keep straight 25 characters, juggle all these new names, personality types, and agendas?
Even if the script has 15 or only 10 characters, that is still a lot of individuals you are asking a reader to assimilate:
They have to distinguish between each of them.
They have to get a feel for each of them.
They have to remember each of them.
A lazy writer may think, “No problem. After a few pages spending time with this character or that, the reader will get a sense of them.”
To which I would respond, “Really. This is what you want. Someone reading your script, forced to flip back and forth between pages to confirm precisely who this character is. Or the worst case scenario: They see a character whose name is not capitalized, but they don’t remember them having been introduced.”
Have I met this guy? If so, where? Or is this the character’s introduction and the writer forgot to capitalize their name? I’m confused!
At this point, frustration sets in. So seriously, this is the mood a writer wants a professional reader to be developing within the first ten to twenty pages of a script?
No, what you want is to pull the reader into your story universe as quickly and deftly as you can, then keep them there… not flipping back and forth between pages to confirm who this character is, rather moving straight through the script, having a clear sense of each character based upon how they are introduced.
Let me add this. A writer who knows how to handle character introductions well is one clear indicator of a good writer. It means: (A) They have an awareness of the issue. (B) They have put in the time to think about a variety of ways to introduce characters. (C) They care about their craft enough to get their act together on all fronts — even character introductions.
Seems mundane. But in reality it’s both important to an effective story set-up and a tip-off that you know your way around a screenplay.
An example. The interview this week is with screenwriter David Guggenheim. Here is how he introduces Matt (Ryan Reynolds) in his script Safe House:
INT. ANA’S BEDROOM – MORNING
Early sunlight glows around the corners of the curtains.
A hand feels about a woman’s leg. MATT WESTON makes love to
his girlfriend ANA RAMOS, their two bodies twisting
underneath white sheets.
He is 28. Handsome. An all-American face. Bright, green and
eager to prove his worth — a horse itching for its gate to
Why is this an effective character introduction? First off, there’s sex. Sex is always an attention-getter. It’s an example of using action to create an image in the mind of a reader. Second is what I call editorializing: Here the Narrative Voice is commenting on Matt: “Bright, green and eager to prove his worth — a horse itching for its gate to open.” You can, indeed, should do that when you introduce a major character, your chance to be a bit novelistic (yes, I’m talking so-called ‘unfilmables’). Give the reader a clear sense of the character’s persona. And third, “a horse itching for its gate to open”: A perfect and concise distillation of Matt’s core essence: He is ready for action and yearns for it.
Now how about the introduction of Frost (Denzel Washington):
EXT. STRIP CLUB – SAME
An Audi with tinted windows pulls up in front of the club.
steps out. 55. Ex-CIA field officer. This guy wears his
years. Salt and pepper hair tucked underneath a hat. Steel grey
eyes that burn with intensity — deep and intelligent.
He may not move as fast as he used to — but there’s still
plenty of fight in him.
Again the narrative voice editorializes: “This guy wears his years… He may not move as fast as he used to — but there’s still plenty of fight in him.” Indeed we see that in the rest of this scene where Frost proves to be one tough, smart dude. And with the rest of the scene — again — the use of action to introduce a major character.
So by P. 10, we’ve met Matt. We’ve met Frost. Two completely different individuals. We know their paths are going to intersect. Matt wants action? Frost brings it.
Safe House is a good example of how to handle character introductions.
In my upcoming 1-week online screenwriting class, you will learn:
* Editorializing and Narrative Voice
* Character and Core Essence
* Physicality and Personality
* Introduction through Dialogue
* Introduction through Action
* Introduction through Objects
* Introduction through Surprise
When you introduce a character, you create a lens through which a reader views and understands that character.
As a writer, you want to control that process. You want to set the agenda for the reader. You want the reader to see each character they way you see them.
Moreover you want your character introductions to be entertaining. As you can see from the list above, you have a myriad ways to do that. This is your chance to learn how.
The class starts Monday, April 8. And I’m only teaching it one time in 2013. Go here to sign up.
As part of the class, you can workshop character introductions from your own scripts. I’m just wrapping up my Story Summaries: From Logline to Beat Sheet class, and we had an extraordinary workshop experience with literally hundreds of posts from dozens of participants refining their loglines, then digging into them further in teleconferences. I expect no less of a vibrant workshop environment in this upcoming Character Introduction class.
Want to drill down deeper into the craft? You can take all eight of my 1-week Craft classes with The Craft Package at a significant savings.
I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!
And now, please allow me to introduce… The Rolling Stones!