Emotional undercurrents

Posted on August 12, 2008

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As writers, we essentially write for ourselves in the first instance. If we do not like or connect with the piece, how can we expect readers to?

An excellent read for discussing this need for emotional connection is Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect by Claudia Hunter Johnson. Do not be put off by the fact that the book is about writing screenplays. The elements that impact on story structure are just as applicable to any other form of fiction writing.

I cannot over-emphasise how much studying scripting has opened my eyes to the importance of story structure to be able to tell the the story properly. This is the essentials of plot – not just what the story is but how we go about presenting it.

Johnson’s central argument is that there is more to plot than conflict. Yes, the conflict is essential. That is what makes up drama. However just as important is the underlying emotional conflict. It is the emotional aspect, argues Johnson, that creates the elements which enable the audience to connect with the story i.e. fulling engaging the audience.

As readers or viewers, we don’t want something that is our own lives. Ross wakes up, scratches his arse, farts, showers and goes to work. The next day, Ross wakes up, scratches…you get the idea. We want a story and character that we can have empathy with, a life or outcome that we want for ourselves or at least fantasise about.

Considerations such as these have helped me take great strides forwards in my writing journey.

Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect
Claudia Hunter Johnson
ISBN 0-240-80641-7

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