Every Story is Really About Emotion

“Avengers: Endgame” has been breaking box office records since its release. While not a great movie, it’s still a very good one primarily because it relies on telling an emotional story rather than a physical one.

Without giving anything away, watch “Avengers: Endgame” to see how all the different characters have an emotional reason to motivate their action. Then watch the far weaker and forgettable “Suicide Squad” where almost none of the characters have an emotional reason to do anything. As a result, the characters in “Suicide Squad” simply lurch from one scene to another without a purpose other than to show more special effects.

Before writing a screenplay, clearly identify the emotional story because that’s what will grab an audience. “Dances With Wolves” wasn’t a great movie because it took place in the Old West, but because it was about a man learning to value honor and principles.

“Titanic” didn’t keep bringing people back to watch it because anyone cared about watching an ocean liner sink. People watch “Titanic” over and over again because they enjoy experience the emotional change and sense of discovery that the hero goes through.

Pick any great movie and you’ll find there’s a key emotional component driving that hero’s actions. Pick any lousy movie like “Suicide Squad” and you’ll find little or no emotional story whatsoever.

People care about the main characters in “Avengers: Endgame.” People never develop an emotional bond for the main characters in “Suicide Squad” because they don’t know what these main characters want. As a result, it’s hard to care because it’s like watching strangers passing you by on the street.

Always identify the emotional story you want to tell. Then define your physical story around that emotional story to make that emotional story as difficult as possible to achieve.

In “Avengers: Endgame,” the main motivation involves loss of a loved one. In the previous “Avengers” movie, the villain, Thanos, snaps his fingers and eliminates half of all life in the universe. That means nearly all of the main characters in “Avengers: Endgame” want to avenge the loss of their loved ones and get them back. To do this, they all must face various elements of their past that involves loved ones.

The physical story always makes the emotional story harder. Most people think “Die Hard” is just a story about one man fighting an army of terrorists in a skyscraper. What the story is really about is one man trying to get back with his wife, and the army of terrorists are simply in his way because nothing can threaten the hero from getting back with his wife than a terrorist who might kill his wife.

So create a screenplay based on an emotional story first, then wrap a physical story around to make achieving the emotional story as difficult as possible. That’s the key to writing a good story that people will want to see over and over again.

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