Finding the Emotional Core of Your Script (and Why That’s So Important)

pixar-logoKarl Iglesias will be giving a webinar on Moday entitled Pixar’s Emotional Core: The Essential Element in all Successful Stories. (You can get a head start by reading Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling as well as the scripts for Toy Story, Toy Story 3, and Cars 2.)

The webinar sounds extremely useful, but its priced at $79, so I thought I’d see what I could learn on my own about central emotions in a script before coughing up that much cash.

In my search, I found an article on GideonsWay that discusses emotion in screenplays and in life. Our characters ultimately want the same things that all of us do, and those desires can be broken down as follows:

These are listed from the basic to more evolved. Typically they are structured as a pyramid.

  • Physiological – breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostatis, excretion. These are unconscious actions designed to keep us alive.

  • Safety – security, body, employment, resources, morality, family, health, property, shelter. These are conscicous actions designed to protect us.

  • Love/ Belonging – friendship, family, sexual intimacy. These are sociological actions designed to boost relationships. We are social animals.

  • Esteem – self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others. These are outgrowths of ego designed to allow us to function in a community.

  • Self- Actualization – morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. These are egocentric behaviors allowing us to function as individuals.

If you have a new script idea, but you’re having trouble identifying the emotional core of your story, refer to this list to figure out what exactly it is your main character–and your side characters–are after. Keeping the core emotional pursuit as well as the tangible goal (i.e. win the boxing match, get the girl, etc.) in the forefront of your mind while writing will help make each of your scenes and your overall script emotionally true and, as a result, compelling to audiences and readers alike.

Gideon goes on to tie this list to writing a script, referencing none other than Karl Iglesias himself:

Karl Iglesias has defined emotions in stories as being voyeuristic (allowing audience to experience a character and sympathize with them), vicarious (allowing audience to empathize with a character and identify with them), and visceral (primal emotions such as anticipation, relief, dread, suspense).

A good story is built on a character wanting something, and something or someone opposes their efforts. In its rudimentary form, this is called conflict, which creates drama in a script.

In terms of stories, Karl Iglesias has reduced scripts to requiring five emotional elements. Audiences love stories to satisfy the following needs:

  • to obtain new information

  • to bond/ socialize

  • to understand and resolve conflicts

  • to get completion/ closure

  • to be entertained

Read the full article here.

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3 Comments to “Finding the Emotional Core of Your Script (and Why That’s So Important)”

  1. Very helpful list. Thanks.=D
    I am in the middle of writing a book and trying to figure whether to scrap or keep it.

  2. This is a really good roadmap to keep on course with stuff when writing. Much appreciated. Thanks.

  3. Hello! I really enjoy your writing posts and I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’. You can find my post and information on it here.
    http://thenovicescreenwriter.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/one-lovely-blog-nomination/

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