Emotional Impact

Emotions are the soul of any story. What can make a story great is when a character has conflicting emotions; if you ever see an audience complain that a character is too one-dimensional, or the story is too simple and straight forward, you can bet that it is because they reacted to every event they came across in a similar simplistic way.

If a character comes across a situation and it makes them happy, or perhaps annoyed, that is fine, but events need to shift a character into action, so instead of them being simply happy or sad, it gives a stronger impact if the event makes them feel bittersweet. In the same instance, in (for example) a mystery drama, it is bare-minimum to make the main character confused or curious; however, if they are fearful yet curious then there is a sense of foreboding and a perceived risk to their curiosity, and if they are confused yet optimistic, then it lends an exploring tone to the adventure.

Romance as a genre is a good example: if a character goes through an entire story simply feeling attracted to the love interest, not much happens. In order to create conflict, there is often love-hate, or forbidden love, or love-disinterest; there is always something at odds with the initial feeling, or they would simply feel it, do it and end it.

My favourite trick in comedy writing is to give an unexpected emotional reaction, because there is nothing more amusing to audiences than a character taking such a simple common situation and having an absurd reaction (at least seemingly, it must be justified in the context of the story). In the case of Lano And Woodley, they mistake a murderer for a prankster, so when the murderer stabs Colin Lano he sarcastically laughs “ow, that hurt” and then asks the murderer to take a second stab at it to show him how the “fake” knife works. In an eddie murphy movie, he is forced into a police car, and instead of complaining or making excuses he remarks how nice the police car is. And my personal favourite, one I made up myself: If a character is walking down the aisle, have them be as agitated and grumpy as possible, mumbling to themselves .

The key here is that straight forward emotions from straight forward situations lacks surprise and depth. It’s when characters have unexpected and intense reactions to situations that audiences get hooked; we can’t help but ask why they feel that way, and what they intend to do about it. And What Happens Next is the most powerful tool to keep an audience hooked.




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