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The industry has a term for broad, uncomplicated antagonists: “mustache-twirling.” Mustache-twirling comes up, for example, if the script isn’t working to provide the antagonist with humanity or depth, if their motivations are just to be eeeeeeevil. The more likely it seems an antagonist might go “NYAH-HA-HA! NOW I’VE GOT YOU!” the closer we are to having a mustache-twirling antagonist. The best way to avoid mustache-twirling is to treat the antagonist with the same craft and attention with see with the protagonist. We should get a sense of personality, internal life, a background that has led the antagonist to these choices...

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BREAKING BAD, DEADPOOL, DIE HARD, ERIN BROCKOVICH, flawed protagonist, fortitude, higher ideals, humor, sympathy, THE SOPRANOS, transgression, undeserved misfortune -

Very often, readers and talent (and audiences) are looking for characters who are sympathetic, particularly the protagonist. We need a degree of sympathy if we are to emotionally invest in the character’s story. Some writers take this desire for a sympathetic protagonist as a demand for a protagonist without vulnerabilities or flaws; it’s Captain America or nothing. That isn’t the case. We can and should be able to find sympathy for characters despite their flaws, in the same way we do for our flawed fellow humans. There are a few tried-and-true ways to develop character sympathy, even (or especially) with...

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Big Lebowski, Blade Runner, Die Hard, Edge of Tomorrow, Groundhog's Day, high-concept, hook, programmer, Taken -

We’ve touched on macro elements like Genre and Sub-genre, and gotten somewhat more specific with Paradigm. Now let’s talk about Hook, which might be described as “the big idea of the movie” or “what the movie is about.” But Hook can also be seen as the “what makes this script/movie unique,” i.e. what sets it apart from all of the other scripts and movies in the same space. Because: simply going through the motions of plugging in the standard beats of a paradigm, checking off all the boxes, isn’t a hook; it’s just an exercise. The older industry term for...

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"Die Hard in a..." thrillers, "Sad Man movies", Boss Level, Dan in Real Life, Die Hard, Everything Must Go, Good Will Hunting, Ground Hog's Day, Happy Death Day, Man Weepie, North by Northwest, On-the-Run thrillers, Paradigm, Source Code, The 39 Steps, The Fugitive, The Judge, The Upside, The Weatherman -

In previous articles we talked about Genre and Sub-Genre. Now let’s get a little more specific and discuss Paradigm. Like genre, a project’s paradigm is an effort to figure out the “what this is” of the story/movie. However, paradigm touches on whether or not a project fits with a common type of set-ups within a genre. Note that the paradigm can refer to the project’s creative side, the commercial side, or both. For example, thrillers are a genre. But among thrillers, there are movies that might be called “On-the-Run” thrillers. That is, a thriller in which our protagonist is hunted...

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