Love and Hate

All the action, special effects, and computer-generated images are pointless (think “Jupiter Ascending”) if there isn’t a strong emotional component to your story, and the two most important emotional components are love and hate.

Your hero needs something to love and a villain to hate. Notice that the best movies always have this love/hate relationship in the hero’s life. Every romantic comedy uses love as a goal for the hero to pursue, but love alone isn’t always enough. To create more emotional involvement for the audience, you also need something for the hero (and audience) to hate and that’s always the villain.

That’s why villains always need to demonstrate their power early in the story to show what a despicable person they are. That not only shows the threat to the hero, but also gives the audience a reason to hate the villain by seeing the villain\’s horrible behavior.

In “Die Hard,” the villain callously kills the president of the company for not opening the safe. This has two purposes. First, it shows the fate to the hero if the hero fails (death). Second, it makes the hero (and the audience) hate the villain. Now the hero uses love to move towards a goal and hate to defeat the villain who’s blocking the path to the goal.

Look at any good movie and you’ll see this love/hate dynamic in action. In “Whiplash,” the hero’s love pushes him to be the best drummer he can be. Then the sadistic music teacher makes it easy for the hero and the audience to hate him. When the climactic confrontation between the hero and villain occurs, the hero has this love/hate dynamic to motivate him/her forward.

The hero wants to achieve something to love, but the hated villain is blocking the way. When both love and hate are emotionally strong in a story, you have a better movie.

In “Terminator 2,” the hero (the good Terminator) is learning to love the human race. To save the humans, he has to stop the evil Terminator that callously kills everyone around him to achieve his goals. This makes it easy for the hero and the audience to hate the evil Terminator. Now at the climax, we want the hero to succeed so he can achieve his love (saving the humans) and we especially want the hero to succeed by wiping out the villain (who we hate).

Look at weak movies like “Terminator 3.” What does the hero really love that motivates him towards his goal? I don’t know, which is why this movie was weak. Why should we hate the villain? She does kill a few people, but it’s nothing that really makes us hate her since the killings happen so quickly with people we don’t care about since we don’t know who they are. It’s not a shock, it’s not interesting, and it’s not memorable, so it’s hard to hate the villain.With both a weak love relationship for the hero to pursue and an even weaker hate relationship with the villain, “Terminator 3” is simply a weak movie. “Maleficent” is another similarly weak movie because the hero has nothing that she passionately loves and the villain isn’t that bad that we hate him. So the confrontation at the end lacks both a strong love/hate dynamic, which means the climactic battle is ultimately boring despite all the action on the screen.

Omit the special effects and gunfire and you get a movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The hero uses love to get back with his family and the hated villain’s defeat is made all the more satisfying because he’s such a despicable character. Yet there’s no battle at all. The hero hugs his family and discovers that his friends have pitched in to save him from he villain, but that’s only because the hero saved so many of his friends. The defeat of the villain is emotionally satisfying because he’s such a hated character.

In “The Hunger Games,” there’s plenty of love for the hero. First she sacrifices herself to protect her little sister. Then she saves Peeta out of love. She tries to save Rue out of love too, then she’s willing to die herself to save Peeta from having to kill her or from her having to kill him.

There’s also plenty of hate to go around too. Beyond the hated President Snow, there’s the callousness of the GameKeeper and the viciousness of the other tributes. When each of these villains are defeated, it’s emotionally satisfying because we already hate them, so seeing them lose makes their defeat even more satisfying.

When you have love and hate strongly infused in your story, you’ll always have a much stronger ending. People only care about the outcome of a battle if they see love and hate. Your hero has to love and your villain has to be hated. Then when your hero wins, it’s emotionally satisfying because the hero gets his love object and the hated villain loses as we rejoice. The hero wins, the villain loses so we get a double dose of emotion through love and hate, and that’s what makes a story end with a bang.

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