DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1)

What to do when a reader says “I don’t buy that he/she would do that”?

In part 1 of this 2-part episode, Chas & Stu look at examples of good character motivation.  We’ve all watched movies where we don’t believe the motivation of a character or characters. We may have even written scripts where readers don’t buy the character’s choices. And that’s often a real problem because most of these choices coincide with key structural moments — e.g. the moments where the characters decide to do something “out of character” in order to progress to the next part of the story.  To help us solve the problem of how to improve our character motivations, in this episode we explore great examples of character motivation and how they have helped the audience believe a character’s decision. 

This episode started out as an exploration of bad character decisions; ones which are universally derided by audiences. And, sadly for us filmmakers, it is often a key structural decision being made by a character that audiences just don’t buy. However, as Stu and Chas did their homework, this episode swiftly became an exploration of character motivations (because that is really what you have to get across in order for your audience to believe a decision) and – in true DZ style – good examples of character motivations.

And so Chas and Stu dive into NOTTING HILL, TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, GAME NIGHT, ARRIVAL, IN THE BEDROOM, BEIRUT, BREAKING BAD, THE MATRIX, BLOCKERS, A NEW HOPE (of course) and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Passing/honourable mention also to MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, THE COMMUTER, THE LOBSTER, GAME OF THRONES, IRON MAN, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and DOCTOR STRANGE (as we re-visit and re-contextualise stuff we’ve analysed previously). 

The potential craft tools they uncover are character patterning, structural timing of the decision, debating the decision (both internally and externally), withholding the decision from the audience, and using external plot elements to either remove obstacles or push the character into making a decision that is… well… out of character. But believably so.

Stay tuned for Part II where we – for once – actually do explore some bad examples of character motivation.

As always: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. Watch it on on YouTube. 

Read the transcript on GitHub or in HTML.

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters. If you would like more Draft Zero episodes more often, click here!

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Many thanks to Murirb, Sandra, Paul, Rob, and Khrob for being top-level patrons. They’re good humans.

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DZ-54: Thematic Sequences

How does removing character and plot question force your audience to engage with theme?

Chas and Stu are joined, once again, by the inestimable Stephen Cleary. This episode is a spiritual sequel to our last episode with Stephen, the one on sequence structure. That episode explored how sequences could be broken into plot, character, and plot/character sequences.

Well, Stephen’s back to talk about a different type of sequence: the thematic sequence. By limiting (or removing all together) questions related to character or plot, filmmakers can force their audience to engage with the deeper, underlying meaning of the story.

Our deep dive onto this topic focuses on LOVE ACTUALLY, THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, APOCALYPSE NOW, and IN THE BEDROOM. But it wouldn’t be a Draft Zero without numerous digressions including into HUNGER, GET OUT, INFINITY WAR, and THE THIN RED LINE. 

As always: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. Watch it on on YouTube. 

Read the transcript on GitHub or in HTML.

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters. If you would like more Draft Zero episodes more often, click here!

EPISODE LINKS

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on Apple Podcasts! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

Many thanks to Murirb, Sandra, Paul, Rob, Christopher, Joakim and Khrob for being top-level patrons. They’re good humans.

DZ-53: Antagonists! (Part 5) – vs Audience

What if there is no antagonist? 

It’s time. The Epic Deep Dive(TM) into Antagonists has reached its shuddering conclusion. And for this Part V – by choosing films that have no obvious singular antagonist (and in some cases no obvious narrative either) – Stu and Chas realised there was indeed a final category of antagonists: the films themselves. Where the film (and the filmmaker) are engaging directly with the audience. Where the films are… VERSUS AUDIENCE.

The films that led to this “insight” often lie to the audience; talk directly to the audience; misdirect the audience; take the audience on meandering narrative strolls; or make the central character the antagonist to all other characters. Sometimes these techniques power a single scene. Sometimes they take up the whole film. All this to keep the audience compelled in the absence of singular antagonists. And these films are – drum roll, please – OCEAN’S 8, THE SECOND, F FOR FAKE, SANS SOLEIL and FORREST GUMP.

As always: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. Watch it on on YouTube. Read the transcript on GitHub or in HTML.

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters. If you would like more Draft Zero episodes more often, click here!

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero! We are @chasffisher  and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on Apple Podcasts! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

Many thanks to Murirb, Sandra, Paul, Rob, Christopher, Joakim and Khrob for being top-level patrons. They’re good humans.