Screenwriting : Character-Driven Story Arc by Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson

Character-Driven Story Arc

Hello -

I have a story idea involving how three friends react differently to the same tragic event, I find it fascinating from a psychological perspective and hope others would share the same interest. The problem I run up against in trying to flesh out this idea is, much like 'Nomadland' that focuses more on the "why" than the "what" with Fern, is how to bring these three individuals to some sort of resolution at the end - is it effective enough to have them come to terms with their own actions, to be at peace with the tragedy? I realize it's a rather abstract ask, but heh, I think that's why I'm struggling with it a bit. I like the idea of the three different perspectives, and can show the struggles each character has within their own bounds, but am unsure about what that meeting point at the end should look like. I think for Fern it was acceptance, going back to the start of the pain she initially wanted to escape by becoming transient.

Mark A McKee

You’re looking at a pretty long prewriting process, but I suppose the bigger question will come down to how their beat sheets interconnect. From there, think about how you want the story to climax.

Is there a location you could utilize...the funeral of a friend as an example...that would allow the drama to flow in a believable way?

The human drama that plays out from their should be rational and the reactions believable while simultaneously showing a sympathetic lens to each of your protagonists.

As for your antagonist, you would need to define whether you wish to use a “person” or if the drama surrounding the tragic event is enough to act as an antagonistic force that will push the plot in the direction you are envisioning.

Best of luck in the process!


Timothy Dee

I haven't seen "Nomadland" yet, so I can't speak to that reference, but having three characters witness something from completely different perspectives is a great idea. For reference and possibly ideas, I would suggest watching the quintessential movie to have used that vehicle, Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon." Break a leg with it.

Craig Anderson

Mark A McKee thanks for the suggestions, I appreciate your input. The funeral will definitely be one of the settings early on, so that's in the plan. Yeah, where the story is non-conforming is the use of the death itself as the antagonist, much like you hinted at. Of course, there are the supporting characters that all try to reach out to these individuals to help them in the best way they see fit, to move along with positive and negative outcomes. I was also planning on flashbacks to relate the importance of the perished character to each of the three main characters - I feel the audience should know why this central character was important, or else it's just people going through the stages of grief. Thanks again!

Craig Anderson

Timothy Dee Thank you, Timothy - I'll definitely give 'Rashomon' a screening; I've only ever seen 'Seven Samurai'. And thanks for the encouragement, we'll see how it goes.

Craig D Griffiths

There are fours question you should answer for each character.

What have they seen. So where do they live, their families etc.

What have they heard. Radio, TV, family, friends. If you are told from the day you are born that tall people are bad, you’ll be suspicious of a tall person.

What have they done. People previous actions are a template for future actions.

What have they said. People will tell you who they are. We tend not to hear the real person.

Craig Prickett

Do they have to all come to a resolution at the end? 3 people see or are involved with the same tragic event 1 gets motivated to start a support group or something.Another becomes suicidal another self medicates with drugs/alcohol etc.The script for Fearless an old Jeff Bridges movie might be worth taking a look at for ideas.

Craig Anderson

Craig Prickett Well, they don't necessarily have to come to a resolution, per se - I suppose what I'm really driving at is I need a point to all this. I can trigger the event at the beginning that sends our characters down their respective paths, but I felt at the end there needed to be some sort of point to it all rather than just witness three people struggle. I mean, maybe there doesn't? I referenced 'Nomandland' because it's very subtle, but the point is made at the end. I recall watching 'Fearless' a long time ago, and thanks for the suggestion, I may have to check it out again since it's in the same realm, people who individually react after an extraordinary event.

Craig Anderson

By the way, we have a good thing going with all the Craig energy in the sub-thread today.

Doug Nelson

What I see; you have three characters each with its own through line/arc. The conflict you need will come from the intertwining of the through lines. Not all the character arcs need to terminate at a common endpoint. Watch The Hurt Locker. Just my pov.

Craig Anderson

Doug Nelson sage advice, Doug - much appreciated!

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