Action vs. Emotion

In general, men like action and woman like relationships. In a bad movie, you only get one or the other. In a good movie, you get both.

Think of your favorite movies that are now considered classics like “The Shawshank Redemption” or “Pulp Fiction,” or older classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Casablanca.” Classics endure because they have both action and emotion. To make a great movie, you need both and the best way to put both action and emotion into a movie is to outline your movie twice.

First, tell your entire story solely with action. Don’t write the actual screenplay yet. Just write a rough outline of what happens and make it as action packed as possible. Pretend the sound is turned off so you have to tell your whole story with compelling visuals.

Once you’ve told your story solely by action, put it aside and retell that same story strictly by emotion. Imagine turning the visuals off and only listening to audio of people talking. When people talk, they still need conflict but that conflict must be spoken and implied through tone and words. The goal is to tell your entire story through dialogue in such a way that makes the characters interesting enough so you care about them and understand their motives.

After you’ve written the same story from a purely visual, action orientation and rewritten that same story again from a purely audio, emotion oriented story, combine the two. Chances are good you’ll discard large chunks of both story outlines but by combining great action with compelling emotions and interpersonal relationships and conflicts, you’ll have a much stronger foundation for writing a great screenplay.

Remember, action alone is boring and interpersonal relationships alone can get dull just watching two people talk all day long. You need both action and emotion to make a great story. After all, you want to strive to create the best story possible so even if you fall short, you’ll still be further ahead than if you tried only to focus on action or emotion alone.

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