Ross Grayson Bell – Writing for a Screenplay versus a Novel (pt 2)

7 ways to engage an audience

1. Premise 

Your point of view and how to live it. 

Eg romance writers have a perspective on love 

Eg in Fight Club, the only way to evolve was to break yourself apart to move on.

Not the same as the book, where he ends up in an asylum – change is bad.

  • Writers POV on the world 
  • Something you can argue both for and against 
  • Eg drivers who cut people off are jerks 
  • BUT if a driver has a dying child or a wife giving birth, then that changes the motive / purpose.  Different POV 

 What is the premise of Out of Africa? 

  • You have to give up control to truly love? – she can’t do it 


  • What can the character do by the end of the story that they couldn’t do a the beginning 
  • If a character can’t change, it’s a tragedy 

2. Concept 

What is the tag on the side of a bus (2 seconds to engage) 

Fight Club – the twist is the concept (can’t advertise it) but unique selling point to get made 

  • The unique idea laden with fireworks 
  • View Date Night vs I Love You Too trailers 
  • Which has more impact? Stakes?  
  • Date Night – goal. Children will live with grandparents  
  • I love you too – he has to say I love you.   

3. Character 

  • Flawed 
  • Struggling 
  • Relatable 
  • Us (the audience) – we get to walk in their shoes 
  • ‘Save the cat’ 
  • Victim of undeserved injustice 

4. Structure 

  • Sequence of events 
  • Eg Hemingway 6 word challenge 
  • Baby Shoes. For Sale. Never worn.  (Changing the word order would change the structure) 
  • The turning points and reversals that keep the tension building 
  • Plot is just the events 
  • Structure is the order in which you place those events to create an emotional response 

5. Genre 

  • Thriller 
  • Romance 
  • Sci fi 
  • Know your genre 

6. Marquee value 

  • What draws people in 
  • eg Jodie Foster, or ‘From the books of Tolkien’

7. Story world 

  • Shared universe wishing which the settings, characters, objects events are consistent 
  • Eg Star Wars 

We also need to look at how to build tension 

How do you create drama? 

  • Goals and obstacles 
  • Motivation 
  • Stakes high 
  • Clearly defined goals 
  • Obstacles 
  • Reversals 


  • Engage audience by creating memorable, heroic, flawed, funny, loveable, despicable, horrifying characters 
  • How do we create the tension to engage an audience in terms of character? 
  • Give the character an external goal, with a clearly defined finishing line, and make them the least likely to achieve that goal 
  • This outer or external journey is a journey of achievement 

Character building:

  • Give the character an inner flaw, that they are often blind to, and they they have to overcome to achieve their goal 
  • Overcoming their flaw is their inner journey 
  • Journey of fulfilment 
  • The outer journey causes the inner journey 
  • Why would that be so? 
  • Overcoming a personal flaw that you are blind to is hard 


  • Audience has to relate to the character 
  • Victim of underserved injustice or misfortune 


  • How does what your character is going through have meaning to your? 
  • Psychology of a character begins with… 
  • A believe system 
  • The way they see the world / themselves/ everything else is filtered 
  • Ego/ Essaence – coat of armour against the world 
  • Starts to break down when you realise it isn’t enough 
  • Story of transformation – breaks down the coat of armour 
  • True self hidden behind the armour 

Your thoughts and stuff

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