In a bad movie, the hero seems like a cardboard puppet that the audience doesn’t really care about. Here’s how you can avoid this problem of making your hero more likable to your audience.
Audiences don’t have to like your hero, but they do have to be intrigued by your hero. In “The Godfather,” you may not like the hero, but you still want to know what happens to the hero. In “A Clockwork Orange,” the hero is a gang leader who rapes, kills, and beats people up. It’s hard to like that character, but it’s easy to care and be interested in knowing what happens next.
There are many tricks to making a character likable such as showing the hero unfairly beaten down by circumstances or showing the hero doing an admirable deed, but here’s another method to consider as well, especially if you have an unlikable hero.
In the book “Crafty Screenwriting,” author Alex Epstein mentions something called an emotional point of view. In a traditional point of view, we see things from a character’s eyes. So if a cop is loading a gun, we see the gun from the cop’s viewpoint. When the cop moves through a building, we see only what the cop sees.
Think of a typical first-person shooter game where you see only what the character is seeing, which limits what you know might be around the corner ahead of you. Most movies only use limited point of view because it’s hard to see everything from a single character’s viewpoint, especially since that viewpoint can’t show us who that character is or what that character may not know.
An emotional point of view is different. Instead of showing us exactly what a character sees, an emotional point of view focuses on only showing us scenes that directly relate to a particular character. For example, what makes “A Clockwork Orange” interesting is that every scene focuses on the main character. Even the few times when the main character isn’t in a particular scene, the action in that scene centers around that main character.
This is where bad movies can lose an audience. They show a scene that has nothing to do with the main character, which distracts the audience and blurs the focus on the story. If a scene or even a bit of dialogue doesn’t have some relevance to your main character, it doesn’t belong.
Think of bad movies that have pointless scenes or useless dialogue. Everything must work like a jigsaw puzzle to work towards highlighting your main character.
In “Star Wars,” Luke isn’t even in the movie for the first ten minutes or so, yet every scene we see directly relates to his story. Although we aren’t aware of it at the time, these opening scenes directly relate to Luke’s life and the story we’re about to see.
When writing your own screenplay, keep this emotional arc in mind. Every scene must involve your main character’s story somehow. Even if the main character isn’t in the scene, the action in that scene must involve the main character at some point in the story.
In “The Sting,” the opening scene shows a man getting a wad of cash and being ordered to deliver it to a certain address. The characters in this scene don’t involve the main characters at all, but the main character winds up conning this man and taking his money, so this opening scene makes sense by giving us information that we need to know as the audience.
Make every scene relate to one character (your main character) and your movie will force an audience to focus on your main character. Whether the audience likes or hates your main character is irrelevant. As long as they’re focused on that character at all times, they’ll at least remain interested in knowing what will happen to that character in the end.