Looking at the Love Elements of the Script
Getting Jiggy With it in on Paper
Wow, here we are at post four in my ongoing analysis of what makes a good script, ahead of attending LSF 2020. This time we are going to look at not only what makes a good love element, but also why we even need a love element in the first place.
Love evokes some of the most powerful emotions with viewers, and is the driving force behind many almost every successful movie. Of course, there are plenty of films that don’t have an overt love aspect, including top rankers such as Jaws, The Shawshank Redemption, Terminator, Alien (though some may argue that the robotic Ash loved the Alien in some weird way), and Silence of the Lambs. They are top flight cinema, but for those movies that don’t have a love angle, there are twenty films that do! The overriding message is that almost every movie benefits from a love element, but adding one of those isn’t the easiest thing to do. Let’s have a bit of analysis.
Great love stories arise from or are centred around a change in circumstance; a person is alone and then meets another who they find that they cannot do without, or a person has that special someone and then loses them somehow. The loss can be permanent or periodic, but the result is that the person reflects on what the relationship actually means to them, creating a mood of what it feels like to lose someone. Whatever the circumstances behind the relationship, love stories evoke some of the most powerful emotional feeling on the screen, and these are what we want to liberate as a screenwriter.
However, screenwriting is a fairly blunt tool when compared to traditional written stories; we scriptwriters have only dialogue and the basic outline of situations that we can use to create emotion. We have to rely on that alone to give the director an idea of what we are trying to convey, and leave it to their artistic abilities. So, because we have so little with which we are able to play about with to drive this area of story, we must know exactly what tools we have available.
In order to make a believable love element, most people should in some way be able to relate to one of the main characters in the story, and feel their pain or elation. Furthermore, characters that are somewhat flawed—physically, mentally, or emotionally—but who are otherwise identified as good people are a great way to win over and engage with an audience.
Your audience must be able to realise the backgrounds of the entwined characters and the underlying problems they are facing within the story, and therefore understand what is driving the love element. You cannot have love for love's sake, or simply to pad out the story; there has to be a reason why the love element is essential to the plot. This doesn't mean that a great love story can't be about two people in some way, it just means that the scriptwriter has to set up the story in a way that makes sense for the audience and drives the story in some way.
Obviously, the love part doesn’t have to be the main area of plot even if it is a driving force; great love stories are the perfect blend of plot and emotion. It is difficult to fully engage an audience without a plot. It's almost impossible to build tension between characters if the plot is the main driving force of the story without the addition of a love angle. The story should connect the harmony between people with the plot events that happen to them.
No great love element can be truly described without some kind of conflict. The conflict must not usually be overwhelming so that it overtakes the importance of the main story, and the conflict itself doesn’t need to be between the characters necessarily. However, it needs to be balanced, as too much conflict can turn the story into something that is driven by the situation rather than plot or character driven. Have conflict, but use it sparingly.
For example, my script is going to address the early space race, so it must have an element of danger, which can then include another facet to the love situation, namely sacrifice, as described below.
Since we are talking cutting edge technology and pushing the envelope for mankind, we have the potential for the added dimension of sacrifice in some way. We may not use it, but at least we have it in our back pocket if we want to and have a higher emotional level to help drive the story forward.
In conclusion, we have to ideally introduce a love element to our story, because it is fundamentally about people. If that is the basis of our story, love is a likely part of it, so we may as well use it to help drive the script along. But understanding the need is the simple part; getting it in the script in the right way is going to be a real task.
Next time, we’ll look at script structure and the tools that we have to help us convey the story.