The main reason people go to movies is to lose themselves in another world. So the obvious question to ask is does your story give an audience a chance to fantasize about another world?
In the book “From Where You Dream” by Robert Olen Butler, the author focuses strictly on fiction writing such as novels and short stories. However he makes an interesting point in making your stories sensual in the sense that you want readers to feel emotions while they’re reading your story. Screenwriting is no different.
Instead of making an audience feel emotions like smell, touch, and taste, screenwriting has to focus mostly on visual sensations, which explains why so many movies become nothing more than mindless action scenes to provide fireworks displays for people to watch.
Such mindless action can keep an audience’s attention, but what’s better is to provide a fantasy that an audience wants to experience. Think of romantic comedies. Whether you’re male or female, you can vicariously live through the characters as they search and stumble their way towards love, which is what all of us want.
In “chick flicks” like “Sex and the City,” women can relate to the main characters while in action/thriller movies, the predominantly male audience can relate to the joy of mowing down bad guys with machine guns and kicking people in the head.
In the “Indiana Jones” movies, the audience can fantasize that they are Indiana Jones going on exotic adventures. In the “Star Wars” movies, audiences can fantasize about shooting it out with bad guys in outer space.
Movies can appeal to people by taking them into a new world whether it’s a world of science fiction, history such as a western, or in a world most of us don’t see such as organized crime such as “The Godfather.”
In a movie like “Fargo,” we’re taken into an odd little world of the frozen small towns of America. In “The King’s Speech” we’re transported back in time to see a king learning to overcome a speech impediment. That by itself may not sound exciting, but the journey of overcoming that speech impediment is one that takes us along like a roller coaster so we go along for the ride to see how it turns out.
Think of a movie as an amusement park ride that you’re transporting your audience to thrills, new sights, and difference experiences. A movie like “Backdraft” gave us a peek at the world of firefighters. A horror movie takes us into the world of serial killers and teenagers. Every movie acts like a vehicle for transporting your audience to new sights, sounds, and adventures whether it’s exotic like “Star Wars” a different world that we might never see such as horse racing in “Seabiscuit,” or just a child’s view of the world as in “E.T.”
Your story is a magic carpet that can take your audience to a new world, so make sure your story delivers on that promise.