by Larry Brody
In real life human beings strive to attain warm, comforting relationships with spouses, children and friends. We work hard to find ways to support each other emotionally.
However, I learned early on in my career that having your characters respond to each other this way on film is at best boring and at worst injurious to your script (and the ratings of your show).
In comedy, sensitive people watching out for each other is like death. Humor comes out of wit, out of people trading wiseass remarks, zinging each other whenever they can.
In drama, the best way to get story points across is through conflict.
Nothing puts a viewer to sleep like watching two characters tell each other “the plan.” But if those same two characters disagree on the nature and efficacy of the plan and argue about it, then the viewer will watch, wondering who’s going to win.
The truth is that the writer wins, by keeping everyone’s attention and preventing the dread zapping of the remote.
Think of all the buddy movies you’ve watched and loved. Have there ever been two characters who cared about each other more than Butch and Sundance? But they hid their feelings beneath their quips. The same for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Wouldn’t you rather watch those three friends have at each other than be in a control room where Janeway’s crew is busy nodding in agreement with her?
I’m not being negative and don’t mean that all your characters have to dislike each other. That’s not it at all. But conflict is what puts the spice in your scripts. So have your leads go nose to nose!
Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every week. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at email@example.com and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.