Screenwriting: Writing Drama (13)

Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.

To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.

Justifying external obstacles

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” sighs Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca. It is indeed highly inconvenient for Rick, but if Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) were not to turn up in his gin joint, there would simply be no story.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,
she walks into mine

In The Great Escape, just as they are about to make good their escape, the protagonists notice that their tunnel has fallen 20 feet short of their objective. “How could that happen?” asks MacDonald (Gordon Jackson). He is right to ask the question since, given all detailed planning that has gone into the operation, it is indeed incredible that they could have made such a gross error of calculation. However it provides another obstacle for the would-be escapees to overcome. So Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) replies: “What the hell difference does it make? It’s happened!” and they get on with getting round it. We may wonder why the spectator is so prepared to accept these coincidences or strokes of misfortune. But there is no mystery.

anything that hinders the protagonist’s progress
is considered acceptable

As a rule, anything that hinders the protagonist’s progress is considered acceptable since the spectator is always pleased to see the conflict pile up. However this does not mean that the writer has a free hand to invent obstacles randomly and gratuitously.

Most obstacles require a minimum of justification.

Most obstacles require a minimum of justification. It is better that their appearance should appear probable rather than merely possible, though their preparation need not be overdone.

-Yves Lavandier

If this excerpt has whetted your appetite and you would like to own this book, don’t fork out the $150 or so Amazon is charging.
Instead, send an email to the publisher contact@clown-enfant.com with subject ‘the story department referral’ and you will be eligible for the super-discounted price of 30 Euros (i.e. only $37 at the time of writing). This saves you $113 (or 75%) off the Amazon cost.
About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

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