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Many novice screenwriters (such as myself) over-complicate their story when starting to write. You may slave away for hours trying to create character arcs for all of your characters. You may spend hours and hours trying to imagine a decent plot. You could be sitting for ages staring at your computer screen with the flashing type marker of doom glaring at you in the face.
Many writers say that a movie isn't a movie without detailed characters. "You must know their background, their family tree blah blah blah." However, that's not entirely true.
So you have your characters in place. Say a middle-class bloke named Darren with fair hair and fairly tall in height. To the people who say you need characters for a movie to evolve its self, they would have their movie from that. Almost 90% of the time these peoples' movies are boring and dull for one plain reason AND THIS IS WHERE THE SECRET LIES...
A movie is not a movie without a decent story. Afterall actors and directors are just storytellers anyway. What's the point of having Darren if he has nothing to do all day. Are you going to document his work life? I suppose you could if he did something interesting. Well surprise, Darren is an accountant for a small used car company. Now what? Are you going to produce a TV series called CARREN which is a TV series about cars with Darren? No, you aren't.
So here's the trick. To write a good screenplay or play or TV series you need the rule of...INTENTION AND OBSTACLE. Darren has just arrived at work after a long night out with the lads. He has a headache and sore throat and looks messy and disheveled, he then realizes that he has left his lunch, name tag, and briefcase at home and he just brought a banana in with him. His shift starts in 30 mins he lives 20 mins away by car which means it would be a 40 min trip, but if he's late again the boss said he would fire him. (DING DING DING - This is an example of an intention and an obstacle. Darren has to get his stuff from home (Intention) however he only has 30 mins to do it and the trip would take too long (obstacle) ). Bang Darren has a plan tell the boss a lie, buy some time, get home grab stuff be back in a whopping 50 mins allowing him 10 mins to grab a lovely unicorn Starbucks frappe that he has always wanted but never had the time to do it. Now the hero in the story has got his plan. However, when has a plan ever gone well the first time in a movie?
So dawns the next phase of the story process. Now that the Hero (Darren) has made a plan he has his intention and there aren't any obstacles stopping him yet. Wouldn't it be boring if a 20-minute long movie just pictured some bloke go an pick up a briefcase full of maths and some leftover Chinese from a week ago. Yes, so, therefore, you need some more obstacles. This is where the writer shows what he or she or it is made of. The new obstacles can be anything from; he crashes his car into an electricity box and the whole world loses electricity or a hitchhiker attached himself to the boot of the car and won't let go to some huge cyclops named paul accidentally steps on his car. That bit can be anything and it's down to you to allow the creative juices to flow.
In the end, the protagonist (the main character) can live die or do whatever but as long as you have intention and obstacle you can create any movie. I encourage you to think about intention and obstacle when you watch your next movie. This can give you inspiration and you can even learn some character paths.
I hope that this proves to be useful to you and I shall see you in the next article. :)