Category Archives: Screenplays

Wreck-It Ralph and Character Jobs, Part I

Although I haven’t watched “Wreck-It Ralph,” I have read the (highly recommended) screenplay, and it sparked some musings about characters and their jobs.

“I gotta say, it becomes kinda hard to love your job… when no one else seems to like you for doing it.”

–Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph, as an anti-hero and video-game villain in his day job, is in fine company. In his book What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z, Lance Johnson provides surveys that list some of the service industries and related jobs Americans rank as lowest and complain about the most:

  • Oil companies
  • Real estate agents
  • HMOs
  • Tobacco companies
  • Auto dealers
  • Cell phone companies (contracts)
  • Collection agencies
  • Banks
  • Auto repair
  • Mortgage brokers

If your characters hold a profession everybody hates, that makes your job as a writer more challenging, but in the case of Wreck-It Ralph, it can also be a rewarding journey.  Everyone (including, ahem, writers) can relate to days in which no one appreciates what you do. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph is about Generation X, the video game and most maligned recent generation, but it is also about our jobs and our livelihoods.

Does the job define the character? 

Does the job define the person? In our society, yes, it does.

Does the job define the character?  In the case of cop dramas, legal dramas, political dramas, hard-boiled police procedurals, stories about sex workers, stories set in the entertainment industry, stories about teachers, even family dramas in which Mom and Dad are the (toughest of all) job titles (what parent hasn’t felt unappreciated at some point?), the answer is yes.

Whether it’s Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” who lives for the job, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Kirk (when the movies prompted him to admiral and took him away from the Enterprise, that sparked major character conflict and a four-movie arc), there are many examples in which the job defines the character. But it’s also the character’s relationship to the job that creates drama and conflict.

FREE help to describe your characters!

In Wreck-It-Ralphs’s case, he just wants to be a part of society and be valued. His external goal is to get a medal, but in the course of “going turbo” and leaving his game, he develops other relationships.

This works for true stories, too: If your client has a job that the public has preconceptions, especially negative, about, such as the mortgage industry (Confessions of a Subprime Lender), IRS agents, Hollywood agents (sorry), salespeople, or politicians (if you land such a gig), your job is to make the case as to why the reader should care:  Is it a tell-all?  A personal struggle with illness?  A friendship or love story that changes lives? A how-to book on consumer advice?  A cause that’s bigger than the job?

Yes, it is hard to separate people from their jobs, because one of the first questions we ask is, “What do you do?” Why would your characters, including in nonfiction, be any different?  Also, other than their stated job title, characters have different jobs to do in your story.  Hero, comic relief, best friend, messenger, shapeshifter, mentor, sidekick…

Don’t knock the villains (even though we all love to). In my follow-up post, I’ll give personal injury attorney boca love to the antagonist/villain’s job and why, in Ralph’s words, “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

Back to the job!

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Wordy Wednesday – Hagrid moonlights

I can’t really tell you how it started. One of my daughters is a huge Harry Potter fan. One day, she stumbled upon Potter Puppet Pals, a series of puppet shows on Youtube. At the end of this post are a couple examples, in case you are interested.

I always tell a story to my kids at night; even when I am too tired, they won’t let me off for a night. I always make the stories up on the spot.

At some point, they asked me to tell a Potter Puppet Pals story, which evolved a bit in my telling so that both Harry and Ron have squeaky voices, Hagrid often falls out of the sky at random times crushing various characters (but mostly Harry), Snape gets no respect and Lord Voldemort is a silly character (building on the great Mustache Buddies tradition from the “real” Potter Puppet Pals – see second video below).

For Wordy Wednesday, (my personal protest against “Wordless Wednesday” blog posts), I thought I would share with you one recent story – shorter than most, was nevertheless one of the better ones. I am not normally a screenplay writer (although I have a couple good ones in my employ), but here is how it goes:

Hagrid sells Kleenex door-to-door

(Harry and Ron greet each other)

HARYY: What are you up to Ron?

RON: Not much, Harry? How about you?

HARRY: Nothing. Hey, here comes Hagrid. And this time he’s on foot!

(Enter Hagrid)

HAGRID: Y’aright, Harry? Ron?

HARRY: Hey Hagrid, what are you doing walking into the scene? Is that in the script?

HAGRID: Got myself a new job, I did.

HARRY: What, you got fired?

HAGRID: No, nothin’ like that. Just makin’ some extra cash on the side as a door-to-door Kleenex salesman.

HARRY AND RON: A what?

HAGRID: A door-to-door Kleenex salesman.

RON: But where’s the money in trucking around huge boxes of Kleenex that sells for…what, a dollar?

HAGRID: Just one box. This one is enough.

RON: What?

HAGRID: Need a Kleenex? Twelve dollars for one.

HARRY: Twelve dollars for a box?

HAGRID: Twelve boxes for a tissue.

HARRY: But Hagrid, who’s going to pay twelve dollars for a tissue?

HAGRID: Well, I…uh…I can’t be givin’ away trade secrets, now, can I? But I have…uh…found a market.

(Enter Snape, Hagrid recedes to a corner)

SNAPE: I see we have here that obnoxious Potter kid and his Weasley sidekick.

HARRY: We love you, too, Snapy Baby.

SNAPE: Harrumph.

HARRY: So much so that I kissed you in your sleep. And may I say that those lipstick marks on your cheek are very becoming.

SNAPE: That’s it. I’ve had enough of your driveling insolence. Fortunately, I have just concocted a wonderful potion of my own design that will teach you a lesson.

(Snape sprinkles some potion on Harry and Ron.)

SNAPE: Gesundheit. Heh, heh.

(Snape exits.)

HARRY: Ah…ah…ah-choo!

RON: Nose itches…

HARRY: Mine is getting all puffy…

RON: Need Kleenex…

(Hagird steps forward)

HAGRID: Kleenex? One for twelve dollars.

END

I hope you like it as much as my daughters (and their cats) did.

Postscript. I rarely follow up one day’s story with a sequel, but the next day the “Kleenex salesman” returned selling anti-dragon-bite pills.

 

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Scriptless with Chantalyne

For Wordy Wednesday, I present to you a “Scriptless” episode co-starring Chantalyne. Name Your Tune is scriptless because no script – no screenplay – was ever written. An idea was presented and discussed. Three or four takes were filmed. Then it was off to post-production and the cutting room floor, where Eric Greer and some of his colleagues put it all together. Actually, in a way this is almost more of a Wordless Wednesday than a Wordy Wednesday.

I am proud of Chantalyne, her first time co-staring in a film.

For the record, you don’t have to go scriptless yourself. We have plenty of good screenplay writers you can hire if you have an idea for a feature film that Hollywood really should know about.

Enjoy this scriptless episode…

Please note that this video has also been cross-posted at http://self-help.thehappyguy.com/2013/01/09/name-your-tune/

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