Jurgen Wolff’s “Screenwriting Coach” workshops start on  Monday, October 22nd. In the run-up to that, we’ve invited him to share some of his insights and tips.  This is the second installment.

When you’re writing your screenplay, one question to keep in mind right from the start is:

What do you want the audience to feel?

Too often we forget that the best movie-going experience is an emotional one. We are paying to be moved to laughter, to tears, to fear, to wonderment.

Advertisers know this, of course. They want you to take action–to buy something, usually–and they know that you’ll do that only if you’re motivated and that the strongest motivation comes from feeling a strong emotion. It may be that if you don’t buy product X girls or guys will be jumping all over you slobbering with lust, or if you use product Y doing the washing-up will be an orgasmic experience.

Unfortunately most of the products don’t really deliver, but it’s important that your screenplay does.

Therefore it’s useful to consider this question on several levels:

What do you want your audience to feel at the end of your film?

If they leave with a strong feeling at the end they are much more likely to continue to think about and talk about your work. The strongest word of mouth comes about when people want their friends to have the same emotional experience they did.

What do you want them to feel about each of your characters?

If your character has an arc from negative to positive, you have to be sure that there’s at least a glimmer of the positive at the start so that the audience will believe the transformation.

What do you want them to feel in each of your major scenes?

Here you have to take into account not only the emotional tone of each scene in isolation but also in light of what went before. An emotion is stronger when next to its opposite. That’s why good thrillers and horror stories often juxtapose a funny or calm moment with a shocking one.

If you find it too inhibiting to think about this while writing the first draft, use it as a rewriting tool. Check the flow of emotions and whether you need to strengthen or vary them…and enjoy the positive emotion of writing something outstanding.



Jurgen Wolff is a writer whose credits include "Family Ties," "Benson," "Love Boat," "Relic Hunter," and the film, "The Real Howard Spitz," starring Kelsey Grammer. I also wrote two TV movies for the Olsen twins back when they were just millionaires instead of billionaires, and the mini-series, "Midnight Man," starring Rob Lowe. Jurgen has been a script doctor on numerous projects.

His books include, "Focus: the power of targeted thinking" (Pearson 2008), "Your Writing Coach" (Nicholas Brealey, 2007) and "Do Something Different" (Virgin Business Books, 2005). He has two more coming out in 2009, "Marketing for Entrepreneurs" and "Creativity Now" (both from Pearson). Previous books also include "Successful Scriptwriting," "Successful Sitcom Writing," and "Top Secrets: Screenwriting." My ebook Time Management for Writers, is available from my website, www.TimetoWrite.com.

Jurgen teachs writing workshops internationally, and divide my time between London and Southern California. He teaches Script Coach at Raindance