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Scriptwriting in a Nutshell: Character’s Goals and Stakes

Most stories begin with the main character/s wanting something, something the character cares for genuinely, has a lot invested in but for some reason can’t get. The character’s goal/s or want/s should be something the audience will also care about deeply and will be able to identify with.

If you give your character/s what they want on the next page of your screenplay, your film will not only be concise but also will lack dramatic tension. That’s why, as a writer, you need to get comfortable introducing obstacles in your story.

As writers, we throw obstacles at our protagonists to make our story more interesting and more dramatic by adding layers. We aim to keep our character/s as far away from reaching or achieving their goals as we can, at least until we decide to finish the story.

The obstacles (I will cover them in more depth in another post) we create for our characters can be:

–   external

–   internal

–   tragic or comic

Of course, all the obstacles can be and often are a mixture of two to make the plot more twisted and intriguing.

To ensure that the audience cares for the story, the stakes should be very high, such as: losing a family, a house, job, identity, dignity, love etc. If the stakes aren’t high enough, it will be hard for the character to be motivated to act (just like we are often unmotivated in life). If the hero wants money for the sake of having money, the odds of that character taking the necessary steps to become wealthy are slim. But if the character wants and needs money to pay for their child’s operation, those stakes become high enough.

The higher the stakes, the easier it is for the audience to connect with the character on the emotional level and identify with their struggles. Every storyteller wants and needs the audience to be emotionally invested in the story and its characters. Even if you don’t like the character/s you have created, you still need to make them relatable for your audience.

In any story, and it really doesn’t really matter if you write a novel, a short story, or a script, what matters is that your character is trying to reach a specific goal. And you, a writer, keep throwing obstacles at them, which makes it hard and at times impossible for the characters to achieve the goal/s they set their mind/s on. Always try to make your character’s goals and stakes relatable so your audience will care for the characters you created.

Don’t feel that your character’s goal cannot change during the story. Quite the opposite; your character may want one thing at the start of the story but will change and grow so much throughout it, conquering all the obstacles you throw their way, that they may change their mind and want something entirely different at the end of the story.

Just keep in mind that throughout the whole story, your character always needs to want something else than they already have.

Scriptwriting In A Nutshell: Make Your Characters Different

While you are here, you might also be interested in Creative Distribution.

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