Monday, July 2, 2007

Assignments Week Six - The Antagonist

Congratulations on making it this far. If you have been writing 10 pages of your screenplay per week, you're almost half-way done!

Last week I requested that you start typing up your hand-written exercises. I hope you have found this beneficial. What I discovered in doing this is that I've come a long way. Going over my ideas allows me to see the decisions I have made in the actual script.

For instance, the first week I wrote this:
Howler is being a brat, the tribe has to move due to devastation of their habitat, but he’s sulking as they move and his brother keeps having to push him away. His brother chases him thru the forest. They get lost, and Howler’s brother is taken by Harpy Eagles.

I can track my progress this way, by typing the notes, because they show a very simple version of what actually ended up being written in the script. I gave Howler a better distraction, I gave his brother a better reason to chase him, I increased the stakes by adding an encounter with humans, and I gave Howler an adversary who later becomes an ally. Reading this makes me realize I'm on the right track.

Typing up the notes also allowed me to see what ideas I had forgotten about and also reminded me of choices I have if I need to go in another direction. As I typed, if I noticed something I wanted to go back to later, I highlighted it (you can do this in any Word document).

Typing up your exercises serves a double purpose; it reminds you about your previous ideas and makes it easier to find them later.

This week, keep taking 10 or 15 minutes to type up your exercises. You will do this from now on until you have completed them. At the end, I will give you more instructions on what to do with them.

After you have warmed up by typing your notes, spend another 10-15 minutes on the exercises below.

The Antagonist

We've primarily talked about the protagonist, which I will define as the character who takes the journey and is changed through the experience. Usually the "main character" is the protagonist, but not always! I always like to point out that in the film Get Shorty the main character (John Travolta) is actually the antagonist for everyone else! He has no character arc, he does not change, he has a goal and accomplishes it. He actually manages to change everyone else around him! (I think Cold Comfort Farm works this way, too, it's just been a while since I've seen it.)

So, there are exceptions to everything.

Let's look at the film Dead Poet's Society. Is Keating (Robin Williams) the protagonist? No, he's not the one we want to change. We like him the way he is!

Who is it we are rooting for? Who do we really want to see break out of his cage? It's Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke). Why are we so moved at the end? Because he gets up on that chair... something he never would have done at the beginning of the story. And WHO instigated this change? Who's striving, goading, teaching, teasing made this possible? Mr. Keating, of course. Mr. Keating is the antagonist.

The antagonist is the one who instigates the change in the protagonist.

Think over your own story... do you have an antagonist? If you don't think you do, can you develop one out of a current character? Probably so.

Sometimes it's difficult to decide exactly who your antagonist is. I'm there right now. It could either by Celia the Tiger Cat or Stilt the Maned Wolf. I'm leaning towards Stilt and keeping Celia as an ally/sidekick. (my villain is very clear, it's Lamp the Boa Constrictor and controller of "The Vine") In either case, I've got some character development to do.


Use the following start lines this week to warm up before you write. Set your timer for 5-7 minutes.

~My antagonist enters the story when...
~My antagonist's exterior goal is...
~My antagonist's secret is...
~My antagonist opposes my protagonist because...
~My antagonist changes my protagonist through...
~If my protagonist does not change, my antagonist will...
~At the end of my story, my antagonist is...

After you have completed your warm-ups, you know the drill. 20 minutes of writing on your script, a short break, and 20 more minutes of writing on your script.

Have fun!


Gigi said...

Thanks for all your explanations! I'm looking forward to this one (it makes total sense to me) and I know who my antagonist is!!! :-P

OpenChannel said...

Hey Gigi, you seem excited. That's great. Keep up the good work.