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09/01/2001 - Add Urgency

Teleplay Tips & Tricks

Add Urgency

One of the things that keeps viewers viewing is a constant increase in the dramatic tension of a screenplay or teleplay. That means you have to do more than just drop your hero into a jam and then help him get out of it. Even as the heroine is doing all she can to achieve her end, life, circumstances, and bad guys should be doing all they can to stop her.

In other words, no matter how hard your protagonist works to make things better, you the writer have to work even harder to make things worse. I think of screen and teleplays as video games. Win one level and you move onto the next one...which turns out to be even harder.

Here's a handy trick for when you've piled all the crap you can think of on top of your hero and can't figure out how to ratchet up the tension any further. Add a timeclock. Your hero has been going along, knowing he has to do X in order to achieve his goal. Now, when he should be coasting to the end of the film, he finds out that he doesn't just have to do X, he has to do it in the next 15 minutes or he's toast! That always shakes things up.


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