Contributor: Snark the Reader
Vulnerability = Stakes
Today I finished a fish-out-of-water comedy spec (with an A-list attachment) and sat back. I was full and happy. Hmmm. Now that’s an unusual feeling after reading a script. I scratched my head. How did the writer pull that off? I’ve covered a lot of good scripts but this one was particularly…vulnerable (in the best way).
The story is about a man who loses his job and must fend for his family in an unorthodox manner. He encounters truly funny, universally awkward situations. I rooted for him. I laughed. I shed tears.
The key to this script’s success? The main character is open and vulnerable because something close to him, or something he values, is always in jeopardy. It MATTERS to him. This is such a gift! It keeps the story pushing forward to the climax because he’s got to figure out problems, and one problem begets five related ones. We’re never bored.
I know what you’re thinking: This is SO obvious. Then why do I see plots with such IMPERSONAL problems like:
- Saving the world. If you’re not Superman, I just don’t believe it. Even Batman limits himself to Gotham.
- Living vicariously. Example: I read a story that focused on the B-character’s love life instead of the main character.
- Trying to win over X but for not any reason that matters (stakes).
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Show me why this character cares and I will follow him anywhere.
Snark the Reader is a reader in LA who has dug gems out of the slush pile, leaped tall buildings to show characters how to raise the stakes, and saved many a script from drowning.