Understanding the ‘to’ and ‘fro’ of emotional polarity…

October 27, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Okay, following on from last week’s post on the importance of planning your screenplay so that 90% of the scenes centre around the protagonist,  this week we look at the ‘to and fro’ of emotional polarity. Or put another way –

Is the hero down in the dumps (-) or contemplating giving up  (–)? Or emotionally satisfied with the outcome so far (+) or ecstatic that the case is about to be blown wide open (++) ?

The key to understanding the necessity of change within the character is to imagine the hero Bill astride an emotional ‘see-saw.’ Initially,  hero Bill starts off emotionally content (+)  as everything is better than fine.

He collects post from outdoor mail box and discovers he has won US$ 400 on the lottery (++). As he walks inside, something glints in shrubbery and he finds his wife’s necklace  – presumed lost but now found (+++)

Wow! Can this day get any better?

Inside, a neighbour phones Bill to say a bank robbery is in progress in town. Bill’s emotions change to (+)  as he knows the staff. It’s bad news but it does not affect him directly as wife Pam is on her way home.

Curious, Bill  turns on the TV and sees helicopter film of Pam’s parked car with doors open and bank robbers dragging a woman across the street at gunpoint. Fearful it’s Pam, Bill’s emotions renders him negatively (–)

However, a few seconds later Bill heaves a huge sigh of relief as he learns the person being held hostage is senator Lexi Matthews (-) . What a relief! It’s not his wife but a senator he voted in and whose policies he likes (-)

Returning to room with cup of tea, Bill learn that one of the hostages inside the  bank is brother-in-law Arnold. (–) Then learns that wife and twin Sister Ana is with him (—). It’s terrible news! And so on…and so on…

So what do we draw from this?

In short, as well as planning the storyline of the screenplay, we need to be aware and monitor the emotional through-line that our hero will encounter as the Highs (+) and Lows (–) impact him/her/them. The writer’s task is to ensure that the script (and by extension, film) keeps the audience on their toes by taking them through a gamut or emotions as they follow the hero’s journey and vicariously live his or her life engaging and manipulated by incidents and the good and bad emotions they bring.

Translating this into the hero’s story, for each scene (unless it is a transition between scenes) someone – usually the protagonist – should be on an emotional rollercoaster which only stops with the story’s resolution as a ‘new’ order is restored when bank robbers are caught and life returns to normal as hostages are released- or maybe not (perhaps).

(NB remember, you need to resolve the story mentally, physically, emotionally for the person whose story we have followed – otherwise it will be a disappointing and confused ending to reader/audience.

Til next time, all the best!



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