Screenwriting : Should there be a reason for everything in a screenplay? by Emily Ann Jefferson

Emily Ann Jefferson

Should there be a reason for everything in a screenplay?

Look at family guy, Meg is the ugly one and the hated one of the family. (But I don't find Meg to be ugly. )And I think her family abuses her because she's easy to abuse since she doesn't stand up for herself. Everyone abuses her because she lets them! But does the show say this? Nope they keep the reason hidden. Okay the reason I'm asking this is because I have a character who is physically and verbally abused by his uncle. But once the uncle can't get a stripper to have sex with he turns toward the teenage boy. And the people who read the script keep asking why is the uncle torturing this boy? Why is the uncle abusing him and his sister? Like these questions are so important to the story. It's wrong to abuse any child. All child abuse is wrong and there shouldn't be a reason to abuse them. But I made up a reason anyway for the sake of people asking why the uncle is so abusive toward the children. It's a disgusting reason to why he targets the boy the most out of anything. Personally I like when a writer answers all the questions in a series but in order to have a good series do you have to answer all questions?

Stuart Wright

If there's no motivation in the present story or through revealing back story details then you've got action that goes and then this happened and then that happened etc .... Or you've got a character who is jaws

D Marcus

You have answered your question with your Family Guy example; that is a good series that doesn't answer the "Meg" question. So, no, to have a good series you do not have to answer all questions.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Emily, Family Guy may not be the best comparison for your project, nor for your intent. Family Guy is deeply cynical and constructed as an adult sitcom "comedy." "Meg" is a creation of Seth McFarlane and reflects his tone/comedic views. I'm only saying this because (if memory serves) you are writing something much more realistic and serious in tone—a drama, yes? And, sorry, there are reasons abusers abuse, which perhaps should be evident or hinted at within your story. Otherwise your "abuser" is, as Stuart said, "Jaws" and not a three-dimensional human being. And if you are writing about such horrible, serious subjects you should be prepared to discuss your reasons for doing so—people will ask. What is this really about? What are you trying to say? Perhaps seek out other films, TV shows, etc, that better compare to your project and creative intent. :)

Vincent Lowe

My thought is that for realistic writing, you might not have a "reason" for everything. In your life, people are how those people are. They may have a "reason" for how they act, but you don't always get to know what it is. Also, they may have a "reason" for how they act but they are themselves oblivious to it. Even if you construct a rationale for a fictional character, you are not obligated to reveal it to the audience. Indeed, for the most sublime touch in your writing, you might reveal it, but only indirectly. In life, we don't always get to know the reasons. Certainly fiction needs to be MORE believable than reality, but you can leave some of the legwork for the audience. One thing to remember though. When you get feedback from someone rooted in how they don't like what happened, or that they don't like what the character did, don't spend too much time on it. If their feedback is about believability, ask yourself if you're being true to the character and to the story. If you find the answer to be "yes" then you're on the right track.

D Marcus

I harken back to "Halloween" (1978) a very successful movie. No reason was given why Michael killed. There was some speculation and I remember a lot of people wondering "why" but that didn't hurt the success of the film. Only in later films was an "answer" given but in the original no answer was given and that was terribly frightening. Why someone abuses a child isn't always needed in a story. An abusive character who acts on impulse with no reason isn't necessarily "Jaws" but can be a fully three-dimentional character with a major flaw. Kind of like many child abusers.

Stevie T

There should be a reason for everything in a screenplay but, not necessarily an explanation for everything. Some things you can leave for the audience to fill in.

Adam S. MacPherson

Emily, the explanation for your family guy inquest is in season 10 episode 2, "Seahorse Seashell Party, watch it, it explains all. "(love this show by the way). I will explain it first in my opinion. "Meg" is a classic "Scapegoat" someone who all around her see as an easy target and take all their anger/frustrations out on because said "Scapegoat" will do nothing about it, and all around her depend on her as a punching bag to alleviate their stress in life . This scenario however sadly, is not fiction, every ignorant asshole bully has a scapegoat who suffers for them. As per a reason for everything in screenplays, Stevie T explained it perfectly as far as I am concerned.

Adam S. MacPherson

And this episode does explain why, watch it please

William Martell

Yes.

Dene Stark

Everything a person does has a reason behind it. If you yell at the waiter, you might be pissed cause you just lost your job. If you smile at a stranger you might be happy that your fave tv show was renewed and for an actor reading a script they need to know WHY a character does what they do. If a person is abusive to another there is always a deep seeded reason, always. It might be they were abused as a child or it makes them feel superior because as a child they never felt important. There must be a reason.

Kenneth David Swenson

Answer questions in a story or screenplay; but not all of them at once. Always leave enough of an element of discovery that the reader or viewer will want to look further to find the answers; but not be so frustrated they put it down or leave it.

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