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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.

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About 

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and creativity consultant. In the United States, he wrote for sitcoms including Benson and Family Ties. He wrote the feature film, The Real Howard Spitz, starring Kelsey Grammer and directed by Vadim Jean. He was a script doctor on the hit film, Mannequin and others starring Michael Caine, Walter Matthau, and Eddie Murphy. For Germany, he co-created the comedy series, Lukas, which ran for 65 episodes, and an original comedy series called Krista. He also wrote nine episodes of the series, Relic Hunter. He wrote two TV movies for the Olsen Twins, and several the German TV movies including, On Top of the Volcano, starring Maria Schrader and Sebastian Koch (2007). His play, Killing Mother, was produced at the Gorky Theatre in Berlin, and he’s also had plays produced in New York, Los Angeles, and London.

As a writing and creativity teacher, his courses include Beyond Brainstorming, Create Your Future, The Creative Breakthrough Workshop and the ground-breaking Script Coach Series developed exclusively for Raindance. He has presented his courses at the University of Southern California, the University of Barcelona, the Skyros Institute, many films schools, and groups and organisations including The Academy for Chief Executives, Egmont, Grundy-UFA, and Columbia-Tri-Star. For eight years he was a visiting lecturer for the Pilots Program in Sitges.

His books include Your Writing Coach and Your Creative Writing Masterclass (Nicholas Brealey Publishing), Creativity Now (Pearson), Do Something Different (Virgin Business Books), Successful Scriptwriting (Writers Digest Press), Top Secrets: Screenwriting (Lone Eagle Press), and Successful Sitcom Writing (St. Martin’s Press).

He has written for many publications including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Broadcast Magazine, and he is the editor of Brainstorm, the creativity ebulletin.